The 2018 Meeting of High Contracting Parties to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) came to an anti-climactic end shortly before midnight on Friday, 24 November. The three days of deliberations focused more on discussing what issues to not discuss next year, once again illustrating the problem of treating consensus as requiring absolute unanimity. Rather than respecting multilateralism, a few individual states—in this case particularly China and Russia—exploited their power to not only weaken the body’s mandates for 2019 but to also misrepresent discussions in the final report.
Russia managed to reduce the amount of time that states will meet in 2019 to discuss lethal autonomous weapon systems (LAWS) from ten days to just seven. Despite more than 30 delegations having expressed grave concern at the impact of explosive weapons in populated areas (EWIPA) on civilians, less than a handful of delegations managed to reduce such references in the final report to a bare minimum. The Convention’s Protocol III on incendiary weapons, addressed by many delegations in this year’s CCW as a separate agenda item, was simply erased for further consideration next year and will not be considered separately.
In stark contrast to the minimalism within the CCW is the ever-growing pressure and momentum sustained by the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, of which WILPF is a steering committee member, to prevent the development of weapon systems that would select and attack targets without human intervention. Our calls are heeded by a critical mass of 28 states that seek to negotiate a new treaty to ban fully autonomous weapons, as well as the UN Secretary-General and the majority of other states, all of which support the urgent need to retain meaningful human control over weapon systems.
You can read the full report by Reaching Critical Will here.