Australian Permanent Mission and Consulate-General
Switzerland, Liechtenstein


CCW Meeting of High Contracting Parties

Agenda Item 8: Consideration of the Report of the Group of Governmental Experts on Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems

Australian Statement

21 November 2018

Thank you, Mr President.

As recommended by the Group of Governmental Experts on LAWS in August, Australia strongly supports continued discussions on LAWS through the GGE process in 2019.  We support extension of the current mandate and a 10 day meeting period. Like others, we would also like to place on record our appreciation for the excellent work done by Ambassador Gill in his capacity as Chair of the GGE.

As we have consistently stated in the past, we believe the CCW is the appropriate forum for this discussion.  Pleased to see there is broad consensus on this point.

In developing a mandate for the GGE in 2019, Australia believes that the GGE should foster or encourage an open discussion on the benefits and challenges of using autonomous technology in weapon systems in 2019.

There is no doubt that autonomous technology provides benefits, including avoidance of civilian casualties in military conflict.  Humanitarian outcomes should be considered more closely by the GGE in 2019, noting this was not a focus of discussions in 2017 and 2018.   

Like any weapon or method of warfare, LAWS must comply with international humanitarian law. We look forward in particular to the ongoing discussions in the GGE on the characteristics of LAWS, human involvement in the use of lethal force, and the process for reviewing LAWS in accordance with Article 36 of Additional Protocol I of the Geneva Conventions.

At the same time, Australia would like to see discussions on LAWS more grounded in the realities of the military conflict, including how human control is exercised in modern militaries. We believe that uncontrolled or unpredictable systems have no military utility.

Australia considers a ban on LAWS to be premature at this stage. There is still no agreed definition or common understanding of LAWS, nor is there a broad understanding of the technology and how it might be used in military conflicts. There is some disagreement as to whether LAWS – as described during GGE meetings – exist or are a viable future weapons system.

Looking ahead, we look forward to working constructively with the new GGE chair in 2019.

Thank you, Mr Chairman.