I would like to begin by congratulating you on your appointment as the Coordinator of Subsidiary Body 5 and assuring you of my delegation’s full cooperation. This Subsidiary Body has been mandated to address items 5, 6 and 7 of the CD’s agenda as well as emerging issues that are relevant to the work of the CD. Given the rapid pace of technological and other recent developments that have a direct bearing on international security, this cluster of issues is assuming added importance. It is indeed emerging as the fifth core issue in the CD.
We thank you, Mr. Coordinator, for your letter of 24 April in which you provided a framework for structuring the work of this Subsidiary Body. Taking cue from that, I shall deliver some general remarks outlining our views on three particular issues that merit a discussion including cyber weapons; Lethal Autonomous Weapon Systems (LAWS); and the issue of chemical and biological terrorism.
First on 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 is greatly increasing the risk to international peace and security.
The spread of sophisticated malicious tools and techniques by States or non-State actors 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 perilous, it is obvious that no State is able to address these threats alone. A multilateral response including 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. Four Groups of Governmental Experts (GGE) have examined, with varying degrees of success, the existing and potential threats from the cyber-sphere and possible cooperative measures to address them. 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.
Turning to the issue of Lethal Autonomous Weapon Systems or LAWS. LAWS are rightly being described as the next revolution in military affairs. These weapons would fundamentally change the nature of war. The absence of human intervention will make wars more inhumane. Regardless of the level of sophistication and programming, machines cannot replace humans in making the vital decision of taking another human’s life.
LAWS cannot be programmed to comply with the rules of International Humanitarian Law. Their introduction will lower the threshold of going to war; consequently, the resort to use of force will become a more frequent phenomenon. LAWS could also be used in anonymous and clandestine operations as well as for targeted killing including in the territory of other states.
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.
We view the introduction of LAWS as unethical, inhumane and unaccountable as well as destabilizing for international peace and security. Their further development and use must ideally be pre-emptively banned through a dedicated Protocol of the CCW. Pending the negotiation and conclusion of a legally binding Protocol, the states currently developing such weapons should place a moratorium on their production.
We are heartened to note that a general sense is emerging that weapons with autonomous functions must remain under the direct control and supervision of humans at all times, and must comply with international law including International Humanitarian Law. Although the concepts of “meaningful human control” and “appropriate human judgement” 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. They do not provide a solution to the technical, legal, moral and regulatory questions posed by LAWS.
We are of the view that a Political Declaration or non-legally binding Code of Conduct comprising voluntary measures can only be an interim step towards a legally binding instrument. Similarly, the “weapon review” required under Article-36 of Additional Protocol I to the Geneva Conventions is not sufficient to deal with the development of LAWS. These national reviews, regardless of their transparency, cannot substitute the need to evolve international prohibitions and regulations on LAWS.
The issue of LAWS does not only have legal, ethical and technical dimensions, but also carries serious implications for regional and global peace and security including effects on the thresholds for armed conflicts. This serious security dimension needs to be adequately addressed. 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.
Coming over to the issue of Chemical and Biological Terrorism. My delegation welcomed the proposal presented by the Russian Federation in 2016 at the CD to elaborate an international convention on the suppression of acts of chemical and biological terrorism. 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.
My delegation can elaborate on these issues in the subsequent sessions of this Subsidiary Body to develop a better collective understanding. Our aim should be to identify the areas of convergence for concrete work in the CD.
I thank you, Mr. Coordinator.