We congratulate you on your appointment as the Co-Facilitator of this segment of meetings of the Working Group on the Way Ahead dealing with items 5, 6 and 7 of the CD’s agenda. You can count on my delegation’s full support and cooperation. In my statement, I shall address each of the three agenda items under consideration today.
First agenda item-5, where I would like to raise the issue of cyber weapons.
Cyber space is fast emerging as the new domain of warfare. The ability to act anonymously, without traditional geographical limitations, at a very low risk to human life, coupled with the ability to mass produce cyber weapons cheaply, makes them extremely attractive and dangerous.
Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) have unique attributes. They are neither inherently civil nor military in nature, and the purpose to which they are put depends mainly on the motives of the user. Several States are developing ICTs as instruments of warfare and intelligence, and for political purposes. The absence of common understandings on acceptable State behaviour with regard to the use of cyber space increases the risk to international peace and security.
The spread of sophisticated malicious tools and techniques by States or non-State actors, which can be easily concealed, further increases the risk of mistaken attribution and unintended escalation. The varying degree of cyber capacity among different States increases the vulnerability of the global network.
As disruptive activities using cyber weapons grow more complex and dangerous, it is obvious that no State is able to address these threats alone. International cooperation and assistance is essential to reduce risks and secure the cyber space.
The application of norms derived from existing international law relevant to the use of ICTs by States is an essential measure to reduce risks to international peace, security and stability. However, a common understanding on how such norms shall apply to State behaviour and the use of ICTs by States is a complex and long-term task, requiring further work. Given the unique attributes of ICTs, additional norms should be developed over time.
International law, and in particular the Charter of the United Nations, is applicable and is essential to maintaining peace and stability and promoting an open, secure, peaceful and accessible ICT environment. However, given the unique differences between the physical and cyber spheres, the extent, scope and nature of applicability as well as interpretation of international law in the State conduct and use of ICT requires careful consideration and further work.
All of these issues need to be comprehensively addressed in a multilateral setting to develop norms and treaties governing the use of ICTs and cyber space, in particular issues that can impact on international peace and security.
Four UN Groups of Governmental Experts (GGE) that have examined the existing and potential threats from the cyber-sphere and possible cooperative measures to address them. Pakistan was part of the third GGE and made significant contributions to its work. We were disappointed at not being included in the fourth GGE which failed to agree on a consensus report this year.
We believe that the issue is now ripe for consideration in a universal setting. The Conference on Disarmament is an appropriate venue for such multilateral work on cyber security. It would not be an over-statement to envisage the destructive potential of cyber weapons rising to a level at par with other weapons of mass destruction, having serious implication for international peace and security. The CD should, therefore, consider this issue under agenda item-5 with a view to concluding an international instrument that regulates the use of cyber weapons from an arms control perspective.
Coming over to agenda item-6, I would like to address the proposal to negotiate an International Convention to Suppress Acts of Chemical and Biological Terrorism (ICCBT) at the CD.
My delegation welcomed this proposal last year, after it was first presented by the distinguished Foreign Minister of the Russian Federation in the CD. We stand ready to go along with the commencement of substantive work on this issue in the CD, whether in the form of discussions or negotiations.
We see value in addressing the threat of chemical and biological terrorism through further normative development that plugs the gaps in the existing international legal regime. The scourge of terrorism needs to be tackled in an effective manner. Its WMD related dimensions assume added importance and urgency.
While nuclear terrorism is already covered under existing international instruments, a Convention dealing with terrorist acts involving the relatively more easily available chemical and biological material will be a positive development on the international security and counter-terrorism landscape.
Substantive work on this issue in the CD will also have the salutary effect of revitalising the Conference by breaking its oft lamented deadlock. As a proposal that does not negatively affect the vital security interests of any Member State, it would avoid the issue arising from the competing priorities amongst the CD’s so-called four core issues.
Turning to agenda item-7, I would like to raise the issue of Lethal Autonomous Weapon Systems (LAWS).
LAWS are rightly described as the next revolution in military affairs, at par with the introduction of gun powder and nuclear weapons. Such weapons fundamentally change the nature of war.
LAWS are by nature unethical, because there is no longer a human in the loop and the power to make life and death decisions are delegated to machines which inherently lack compassion and intuition. This will make war more inhumane.
LAWS cannot be programmed to comply with International Humanitarian Law (IHL). These rules can be complex and entail subjective decision making requiring human judgment.
LAWS will lower the threshold of going to war resulting in armed conflict no longer being a measure of last resort. Consequently, the resort to use of force may become a more frequent phenomenon. LAWS would, therefore, undermine international peace and security. Their introduction would affect progress on disarmament and non-proliferation. Faced with the prospect of being overwhelmed by LAWS, states possessing WMD capabilities would be reluctant to give them up, while others would feel encouraged to acquire them.
The use of LAWS in the battlefield would amount to a situation of one-sided killing. The states that are currently developing and using LAWS cannot afford to be complacent that such capabilities will not proliferate over time, and hence they too shall become vulnerable. Going by past experience we all know that monopolies over such technologies do not last forever. Since the developing countries are not going to carry the burden of non-proliferation, an unchecked robotic arms race could ensue. LAWS could also proliferate to non-state actors with unimaginable consequences.
Although the concepts of “meaningful human control” and “appropriate human judgment” have gained some currency and traction in the context of LAWS, we are of the view that these concepts only provide an approach to discussing the weaponization of increasingly autonomous technologies, and do not provide a solution to the technical, legal, moral and regulatory questions that they pose.
The introduction of LAWS, in our view, would be illegal, unethical, inhumane and unaccountable as well as destabilizing for international peace and security with grave consequences. Therefore, their further development and use must be banned. The states currently developing such weapons should place an immediate moratorium on their production and use.
Besides considering the issue of LAWS in the framework of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW), its international security related dimensions should be comprehensively addressed by the CD.
I thank you, Mr. Co-Facilitator.