Latin America and Caribbean states jointly agree on the urgent need to negotiate an international instrument to regulate autonomy in weapon systems

Region acknowledges risks and expresses political will to negotiate a legally binding instrument on autonomous weapons

Heredia, 24 February 2023. On the second day of the Regional Conference on the Social and Humanitarian Impact of Autonomous Weapons, 33 Latin American and Caribbean States agreed on the urgent need to negotiate a legally binding instrument, with prohibitions and regulations, on autonomy in weapons systems in order to guarantee meaningful human control.

This is the first time that a region of the world has met outside the confines of the United Nations in Geneva to call with one voice for the strengthening of the international legal framework on this issue.

During the Conference, the States reaffirmed their commitment to develop common positions that will provide renewed impetus to the negotiations taking place in the framework of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) in Geneva, Switzerland, as well as in other relevant international fora.

States further committed to continue and strengthen cooperation and partnership with international and civil society organisations, academia and other relevant stakeholders to draw on their relevant expertise and support.

Recognising that the use of certain forms of artificial intelligence can undermine international peace and security, Acting Costa Rican Minister of Foreign Affairs and Worship Christian Guillermet stressed that “there is a real sense of urgency for new prohibitions and regulations guided by the UN Charter and international law – including international humanitarian law and its principles. These rules should be based on the principles of humanity and the dictates of public conscience, as well as ethical perspectives.”

Guillermet further warned that “it is not only the use of artificial intelligence in military systems and processes that poses ethical and security risks, but also the possible malicious use of this technology by state and non-state actors to conduct sophisticated cyber operations and even disinformation campaigns.”

In the words of Ambassador Maritza Chan, Permanent Representative of Costa Rica to the UN Headquarters in New York, “this Conference marks a turning point: there is a before and an after the adoption of the Belén Communiqué. The spirit of Belén should guide our next steps and serve to establish a clear roadmap. This is not the first time that Latin America and the Caribbean are at the forefront of the most important peace and security issues.”

The Conference was attended by experts and representatives from civil society organisations and international organisations, who urged participants from States to work together to ensure compliance with international law, including humanitarian law, as well as to reduce the risks of autonomy in weapons systems.

As part of the Conference, members of the international press accredited in Costa Rica attended a briefing with Acting Foreign Minister Guillermet and Ambassador Chan. At the brief, the Minister clarified the objectives of the Conference and the risks that autonomous weapons pose to international peace and security.

The Conference was hosted by the Government of Costa Rica, through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Worship, and executed by the Foundation for Peace and Democracy (FUNPADEM).

The final document agreed upon by the Participating States is published at the following location:

Autonomous weapons. Launching his report “Our Common Agenda” in September 2021, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned that “technology is moving ahead without guard rails to protect us from its unforeseen consequences.”

He also called for “promoting regulation of artificial intelligence to ensure that it respects common global values” (…) as “we have nowhere near a global architecture to address any of these challenges“.

An autonomous weapon system is defined as: “Any weapon system endowed with autonomy in its critical functions, i.e. a weapon system that can select (seek, detect, identify, track or select) and engage (use force against, neutralise, damage or destroy) targets without human intervention”.

The idea that a machine can ultimately decide to end a life undermines human dignity and devalues the concept of humanity. The notion of ethics is a fundamental integral part of international humanitarian law. The notion of ethics is a fundamental integral part of international humanitarian law.

The second paragraph of Article 1 of the Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 1949 (known as the Maarten Clause) states: “In cases not covered by this Protocol or by other international agreements, civilians and combatants remain under the protection and authority of the principles of international law derived from established custom, from the principles of humanity and from the dictates of public conscience.”

In addition, serious doubts have been raised about the ability of any algorithm to make sufficiently humane judgments to evaluate the available information and make decisions related to the International Humanitarian Law rules of distinction, proportionality and precautions in attack. Press contact: José Loría Rojas, tel. +506 8330 4809, e-mail: Comunicación Institucional 076-2023 América Latina y el Caribe acuerdan en Costa Rica la urgente necesidad de negociar un instrumento internacional para regular la autonomía en los sistemas de armas Viernes 24 de febrero de 2023

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