By CARICOM | September 11, 2023
On 6 September 2023, a historical CARICOM Declaration on Autonomous Weapons Systems was issued which calls for the “urgent pursuit of an international legally binding instrument, incorporating prohibitions and regulations on autonomous weapons systems”.
The CARICOM Declaration on Autonomous Weapons Systems resulted from a two-day regional Conference on the Human Impacts of Autonomous Weapons in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, on 5-6 September 2023. The Declaration represents a significant step for the Region in advancing CARICOM’s position regarding autonomous weapons systems.
The Conference was hosted by the CARICOM Implementation Agency for Crime and Security (IMPACS) in collaboration with the Office of the Attorney General, Trinidad and Tobago, Soka Gakkai International and Stop Killer Robots.
The world is rapidly changing, and emerging technologies, including artificial intelligence (AI) are quickly growing and expanding, transforming all areas of society. AI and robotics are revolutionizing law enforcement, security, armed conflicts, warfare and weapons systems, including the emergence of autonomous weapons systems. Such weapon technologies may have detrimental implications for CARICOM states’ national security, raising questions about the proliferation of these weapons to non-state actors, including criminal groups, gangs and terrorists.
Autonomous weapons systems can replace humans in the application of force, by relying on the processing of sensor data to select and engage targets with force, without human intervention. The human operator does not determine specifically where, when, or against what force is applied.
Currently, there is no specific international law to regulate the use or development of autonomous weapons. The lack of human control in the decision-making process of these weapons raises significant legal, ethical and moral concerns and also question the conformity of these weapons with applicable international humanitarian law, international human rights law, international criminal law and issues of accountability and responsibility in the event of civilian harm or other unintended consequences.
Over 90 States have called for the negotiation of an international legally binding instrument to respond to the legal, ethical, humanitarian and security risks posed by autonomous weapons systems. This call is also supported by thousands of experts in AI and technology, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), 26 Nobel Laureates, the Stop Killer Robots campaign, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and wider civil society.
The United Nations Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, has called autonomous weapons “politically unacceptable and morally repugnant” and, on 22 July 2023, issued an urgent call to states to adopt a treaty to prohibit and regulate autonomous weapons systems by 2026.
Globally, discussions on autonomous weapons systems have been dominated by issues related to wars, armed conflicts and international humanitarian law. The CARICOM Declaration will contribute valuable insights to the global normative framework and policy landscape on autonomous weapons systems, taking into consideration the unique geographical peculiarities and domestic security issues of countries, including the diversion of weapons to criminals.
Significantly, the Declaration calls for an internationally binding instrument “which takes into consideration issues relating to non-proliferation and the risks of diversion to non-state actors, including non-state armed groups and terrorist groups, and the challenges of Autonomous Weapons Systems to internal and domestic security, including law enforcement and border security”.
CARICOM states momentous move to adopt a declaration at the CARICOM Conference: The Human Impacts of Autonomous Weapons demonstrate the region’s political and moral leadership. The Declaration will assist to inform normative frameworks and any future international legally binding instrument on autonomous weapons systems.
Government representatives from CARICOM States attended the Conference, as did officials from observer countries and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). Other participants include:
- representatives from regional institutions, including the Caribbean Court of Justice, CARICOM Secretariat, CARICOM IMPACS, CARPHA, and the Regional Security System;
- ambassadors and representatives from CARICOM Member States’ Permanent Missions to the United Nations;
- representatives of the Diplomatic Corps and representatives of third states, representatives of international agencies;
- members of academia and civil society, including Stop Killer Robots and Soka Gakkai International.
The Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Trinidad and Tobago, the Honorable Reginald Armour S.C.; Minister of National Security, the Honorable Fitzgerald Hinds, MP.; the Executive Director, CARICOM IMPACS, Lt. Col. Michael Jones; Ambassador, Permanent Mission of Costa Rica to the United Nations, H.E. Maritza Chan Valverde addressed the Conference and reiterated their respective institutions’ firm desire for a new international legally binding instrument to address autonomous weapons systems. Minister in the Office of the September 9, 2023
Attorney General and Ministry of Legal Affairs, Senator the Honorable Renuka Sagramsingh-Sooklal, also participated in the Conference.
The CARICOM Conference: The Human Impacts of Autonomous Weapons is an initiative of the CARICOM Implementation Agency for Crime and Security (IMPACS), the Office of the Attorney General, Trinidad and Tobago, Soka Gakkai International and Stop Killer Robots.