Conference on Disarmament – Plenary Meeting, 16 June 2016 – Statement by Ambassador Tehmina Janjua, Permanent Representative of Pakistan
We greatly welcome the discussion that we are having today. It provides us a unique opportunity to discuss items 5, 6 and 7 of the CD’s agenda. These agenda items are important because they provide the opportunity to address new developments – beyond the so-called four core issues. Just this year, we have seen the introduction of a proposal dealing with acts of chemical and biological terrorism under agenda item 6.
I will use the opportunity today to highlight those issues that we feel merit urgent attention of the Conference under these agenda items. These include Cyber Security, Lethal Autonomous Weapon Systems (LAWS), and Destabilizing weapon systems.
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 ICTs increases the risk to international peace and security.
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.
The speed, stealth and anonymity associated with the use of ICT add another layer of complexity in the application of conventional international law into the use of ICT by States. The role of international cooperation and assistance in enabling States to secure ICTs is essential. Gaps in capacities and resources can have a significant bearing on the exercise of rights and responsibilities of States in their conduct and use of ICTs for exclusively peaceful purposes.
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. 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 weapons of mass destruction, with serious implication for international peace and security.
Lethal Autonomous Weapon Systems (LAWS)
Lethal Autonomous Weapon Systems, or LAWS, are rightly described as the next revolution in military affairs, at par with the introduction of gun powder and nuclear weapons. In the absence of any human intervention, 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. This will make war more inhumane.
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 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. Besides, LAWS could also proliferate to non-state actors with unimaginable consequences.
Although the concept of “meaningful human control” has gained some currency and traction in the context of LAWS, we are of the view that the concept of “meaningful human control” only provides an approach to discussing the weaponization of increasingly autonomous technologies; it does not provide a solution to the technical, legal, moral and regulatory questions that they pose.
Based on these considerations, the introduction of LAWS 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 pre-emptively banned, and the states currently developing such weapons should place an immediate moratorium on their production and use. The issue should be comprehensively addressed by the CD as a matter of priority.
Destabilizing weapon systems
Destabilizing weapon systems such as Anti-Ballistic Missiles (ABMs) as well as the development of new conventional weapons such as hypersonic missiles, etc. also needs to be addressed in the CD. These weapon systems have the potential to affect strategic stability at the global and regional levels. The CD should regularly review the latest developments in science and technology related to military uses and weapons, in order to identify issues that could affect international peace and security.
In addition to the three issues that I have just raised, my delegation also stands ready to consider in the CD the question of chemical and biological terrorism, including negotiations on elaborating a legally binding convention.
I thank you, Mr. President.