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Great Campaign Events in Canada!

Mines Action Canada and the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots hosted a number of events in Ottawa over the past two days to begin the discussion in Canada about autonomous weapons.  We were pleased to have Mary Wareham, Global Coordinator of the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots and Advocacy Director, Arms Division at Human Rights Watch along with Peter Asaro, Professor at the New School and Vice-Chair of the International Committee for Robot Arms Control (ICRAC) join us and local expert Ian Kerr, in Ottawa for the events.  Be sure to check out the great summary of the events on the Campaign’s website.

The two days started with an op-ed by Ian Kerr who holds the Canada Research Chair in Ethics, Law and Technology at the University of Ottawa and is a member of ICRAC.

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Opening the public event

On April 28th, we met with other peace, disarmament and development organizations to talk about the campaign and to begin to build a stronger civil society presence in Canada on this issue.  There was a lot of a interest from our non-profit colleagues so we look forward to hearing more voices on this issue in the near future.

Later that day, we hosted a public event at Ottawa City Hall.  There was a panel discussion with Peter, Paul, Mary and Ian followed by a rather lively Question and Answer session with the audience.  The audience was generally quite supportive of the Campaign and our efforts to achieve a pre-emptive ban on autonomous weapons.  Audience members with backgrounds in engineering, law, the military and politics all expressed concern about the development of killer robots.

The following morning, MAC hosted a breakfast briefing for parliamentarians and their staff, other NGOs and decision makers in Ottawa.  The Bagels and ‘Bots breakfast was the first time some of these decision makers had heard of the issue and it seemed to strike a chord with many in the room.  After breakfast, the team was off to Parliament Hill for a press conference.  At the press conference and in MAC’s press release, campaigners called for Canadian leadership on this issue internationally and for Canada to be the first country in the world to declare a moratorium on the development and production of killer robots.

The media in Ottawa and across the country have taken quite an interest in these events.  The Canadian Press story was picked up in newspapers across the country as well as national media outlets and there was an associated list of facts about killer robots.  The Sun News Network, and Ottawa Citizen also covered the Campaign while MAC has received a number of radio interview requests.  Paul Hannon, Executive Director, was on CKNW Morning News with Philip Till.

One very exciting result of these activities is that The Globe and Mail’s editorial team has come out in support of the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots and our call:

The world has a long banned some weapons deemed dangerous, indiscriminate or inhumane, including chemical weapons and land mines. Autonomous robot weapons carry all such risks, and add new ones to the list. They are not wielded remotely by humans, but are intended to operate without supervision. They’re about turning life and death decisions over to software. Canada should be a leading voice advocating for a global protocol limiting their development and use.

Also Jian Ghomenshi on CBC Radio’s Q called for Canadian leadership on killer robots, he says that leadership on this issue is something Canadians could be proud of and that it could be a legacy issue for Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

The Keep Killer Robots Fiction initiative is off to a great start.  You can get involved by signing and sharing the petition at: http://bit.ly/KRpetition.

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The panelists at the Bagels and ‘Bots Breakfast

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Launch Event for Campaign to Stop Killer Robots in Canada

In Ottawa?

Come join us to launch the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots in Canada.

Join us at Ottawa City Hall for a panel discussion on fully autonomous weapons, led by Mines Action Canada and including guest speakers:

  • Ian Kerr – Professor, University of Ottawa, and Canada Research Chair for Ethics, Law and Technology (Ottawa, ON)
  • Mary Wareham – Advocacy Director – Arms Division, Human Rights Watch, and Global Coordinator for the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots (Washington, DC)
  • Peter Asaro – The New School for Public Engagement and Co-Founder and Co-Chair of the International Committee for Robot Arms Control (New York, NY)
  • Paul Hannon – Executive Director, Mines Action Canada (Ottawa, ON)

Where? : Ottawa City Hall – the Colonel By room
When? : April 28th, 7:00 pm (Doors at 6:45 pm)

Check out the Public Event Flyer for all the details.

Campaign to Stop Killer Robots Summer Recap

The Campaign to Stop Killer Robots has been trundling along all summer  sharing our message, reaching out to governments and gaining new supporters,.

There have been some exciting and important developments over the summer.  The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) launched the newest edition of the International Review of the Red Cross and the theme is New Technologies and Warfare.  A number of campaigners contributed to the journal so it is definitely worth a read.  The ICRC also published a Frequently Asked Questions document on autonomous weapons that helps explain the issue and the ICRC’s position on fully autonomous weapons.

France along with the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs in Geneva convened a seminar on fully autonomous weapons for governments and civil society in early September.  The Campaign to Stop Killer Robots had campaigners taking part and you can read the full report on the global campaign’s website.

The campaigns in Germany and Norway are starting off strong as well.  In the lead up to the German election, all the major parties shared their policy positions in regards to fully autonomous weapons with our colleagues at Facing Finance.  Norwegian campaigners launched their campaign with a breakfast seminar and now they are waiting to hear what the new Norwegian government’s policy on fully autonomous weapons will be.

Like our colleagues in Norway, we’re still waiting to hear what Canada’s policy on fully autonomous weapons will be.  We have written to the Ministers of National Defense and of Foreign Affairs but the campaign team has not yet heard back.  In the meantime, Canadians can weigh in on the topic through our new online petition.  Share and sign the petition today!  This petition is the first part of a new initiative that will be coming your way in a few weeks.  Keep your eye out for the news and until then keep sharing the petition so that the government knows that Canadians have concerns about fully autonomous weapons and believe that Canada should have a strong policy against them.

EDIT:  We had a very human moment here and forgot to include congratulations to James Foy of Vancouver for winning the 2013 Canadian Bar Association’s National Military Law Section Law School Sword and Scale Essay Prize for his essay called Autonomous Weapons Systems: Taking the Human out of International Humanitarian Law.  It is great to see law students looking at this new topic and also wonderful that the Canadian Bar Association recognized the importance of this issue.  Congratulations James!

 

First ever UN debate on killer robots

This week, the United Nations Human Rights Council became the first UN body to discuss the issue of killer robots.  To mark the occasion, the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots headed to Geneva to introduce our campaign to diplomats, UN agencies and civil society.  Check out the full report from the international campaign.

Meet David Wreckham – Robot Campaigner

David Wreckham is a friendly robot campaigning for a ban on killer robots.  See him in action during the launch of the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots in London last week.  You can follow David Wreckham on Twitter.

(c) Sharron Ward for the campaign, 23 April 2013.

Press Release – Urgent Action Needed to Ban Fully Autonomous Weapons

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Non-governmental organizations convene to launch Campaign to Stop Killer Robots

(London, April 23, 2013) – Urgent action is needed to pre-emptively ban lethal robot weapons that would be able to select and attack targets without any human intervention, said a new campaign launched in London today. The Campaign to Stop Killer Robots is a coordinated international coalition of non-governmental organizations concerned with the implications of fully autonomous weapons, also called “killer robots.”

The Campaign to Stop Killer Robots calls for a pre-emptive and comprehensive ban on the development, production, and use of fully autonomous weapons. The prohibition should be achieved through an international treaty, as well as through national laws and other measures.

“Allowing life or death decisions on the battlefield to be made by machines crosses a fundamental moral line and represents an unacceptable application of technology,” said Nobel Peace Laureate Jody Williams of the Nobel Women’s Initiative. “Human control of autonomous weapons is essential to protect humanity from a new method of warfare that should never be allowed to come into existence.”

Over the past decade, the expanded use of unmanned armed vehicles or drones has dramatically changed warfare, bringing new humanitarian and legal challenges. Now rapid advances in technology are permitting the United States and other nations with high-tech militaries, including China, Israel, Russia, and the United Kingdom, to move toward systems that would give full combat autonomy to machines.

“Killer robots are not self-willed ‘Terminator’-style robots, but computer-directed weapons systems that once launched can identify targets and attack them without further human involvement,” said roboticist Noel Sharkey, chair of the International Committee for Robot Arms Control. “Using such weapons against an adaptive enemy in unanticipated circumstances and in an unstructured environment would be a grave military error. Computer controlled devices can be hacked, jammed, spoofed, or can be simply fooled and misdirected by humans.”

The Campaign to Stop Killer Robots seeks to provide a coordinated civil society response to the multiple challenges that fully autonomous weapons pose to humanity. It is concerned about weapons that operate on their own without human supervision. The campaign seeks to prohibit taking a human out-of-the-loop with respect to targeting and attack decisions on the battlefield.

“The capability of fully autonomous weapons to choose and fire on targets on their own poses a fundamental challenge to the protection of civilians and to compliance with international law,” said Steve Goose, Arms Division director at Human Rights Watch. “Nations concerned with keeping a human in the decision-making loop should acknowledge that international rules on fully autonomous weapons systems are urgently needed and work to achieve them.”

The UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Professor Christof Heyns, is due to deliver his report on lethal autonomous robotics to the second session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva, starting May 27, 2013. The report is expected to contain recommendations for government action on fully autonomous weapons.

“One key lesson learned from the Canadian led initiative to ban landmines was that we should not wait until there is a global crisis before taking action.” said Paul Hannon, Executive Director of Mines Action Canada. “The time to act on killer robots is now”

“We cannot afford to sleepwalk into an acceptance of these weapons. New military technologies tend to be put in action before the wider society can assess the implications, but public debate on such a change to warfare is crucial,” said Thomas Nash, Director of Article 36.  “A pre-emptive ban on lethal autonomous robots is both necessary and achievable, but only if action is taken now.”

The Campaign to Stop Killer Robots believes that humans should not delegate the responsibility of making lethal decisions to machines. It has multiple moral, legal, technical, and policy concerns with the prospect of fully autonomous weapons, including:

  • Autonomous robots would lack human judgment and the ability to understand context. These human qualities are necessary to make complex legal choices on a dynamic battlefield, to distinguish adequately between soldiers and civilians, and to evaluate the proportionality of an attack.  As a result, fully autonomous weapons would not meet the requirements of the laws of war.
  • The use of fully autonomous weapons would create an accountability gap as there is no clarity on who would be legally responsible for a robot’s actions: the commander, programmer, or one of the manufacturers of the many sensing, computing, and mechanical components? Without accountability, these parties would have less incentive to ensure robots did not endanger civilians and victims would be left unsatisfied that someone was punished for wrongful harm they experienced.
  • If fully autonomous weapons are deployed, other nations may feel compelled to abandon policies of restraint, leading to a destabilizing robotic arms race. Agreement is needed now to establish controls on these weapons before investments, technological momentum, and new military doctrine make it difficult to change course.
  • The proliferation of fully autonomous weapons could make resort to war and armed attacks more likely by reducing the possibility of military casualties.

The Campaign to Stop Killer Robots includes several non-governmental organizations (NGOs) associated with the successful efforts to ban landmines, cluster munitions, and blinding lasers. Its members collectively have a wide range of expertise in robotics and science, aid and development, human rights, humanitarian disarmament, international law and diplomacy, and the empowerment of women, children, and persons with disabilities. The campaign is building a worldwide network of civil society contacts in countries including Canada, Egypt, Japan, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Pakistan, United Kingdom, and the United States.

The Steering Committee is the principal leadership and decision-making body for of the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots and is comprised of nine NGOs: five international NGOs Human Rights Watch, International Committee for Robot Arms Control, Nobel Women’s Initiative, Pugwash Conferences on Science & World Affairs, and Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, and four national NGOs Article 36 (UK), Association for Aid and Relief Japan, Mines Action Canada, and IKV Pax Christi (The Netherlands).

The Campaign to Stop Killer Robots was established by representatives of seven of these NGOs at a meeting in New York on 19 October 2012. It is an inclusive and diverse coalition open to NGOs, community groups, and professional associations that support the campaign’s call for a ban and are willing to undertake actions and activities in support of the campaign’s objectives. The campaign’s initial coordinator is Mary Wareham of Human Rights Watch.

On Monday, April 22, the Steering Committee of the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots convened a day-long conference for 60 representatives from 33 NGOs from ten countries to discuss the potential harm that fully autonomous weapons could pose to civilians and to strategize on actions that could be taken at the national, regional, and international levels to ban the weapons.

Contact information for the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots:

To schedule a media interview (see list of spokespersons), please contact:

  • UK media – Laura Boillot at Article 36, +44(0)7515-575-175, laura@article36.org
  • International media – Kate Castenson at Human Rights Watch, +1 (646) 203-8292, castenk@hrw.org

Video Footage

For more information, see:

  • Human Rights Watch “Losing Humanity” report on fully autonomous weapons: http://bit.ly/UQscFA
  • Human Rights Watch “Review of the New US Policy on Autonomy in Weapons Systems” briefing paper: http://bit.ly/17FDTTj

List of Spokespersons

The following campaign spokespersons will be speaking at the launch events in London on 22-24 April and are available for interview on request. In addition, raw interview footage of Williams, Sharkey, Goose, and Docherty is available here: http://multimedia.hrw.org/distribute/hpgicavqly

Principal Spokespersons

Ms. Jody Williams – Nobel Women’s Initiative, @JodyWilliams97 @NobelWomen

Jody Williams received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1997 for her work to ban landmines through the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, which shared the Peace Prize. In January 2006, Jody established the Nobel Women’s Initiative together with five of her sister Nobel Peace laureates. In an April 2011 article for the International Journal of Intelligence Ethics, Nobel Peace Laureate Jody Williams calls for a ban on “fully autonomous attack and kill robotic weapons.” In March 2013, the University of California Press published a memoir on her work entitled My Name is Jody Williams: A Vermont Girl’s Winding Path to the Nobel Peace Prize. Williams can speak on why civil society is coming together and partnering with other actors to pursue a pre-emptive ban on fully autonomous weapons. Longer biography available here: http://bit.ly/JKVvBd

Prof. Noel Sharkey – International Committee for Robot Arms Control, @StopTheRobotWar

Roboticist Noel Sharkey is Professor of Artificial Intelligence and Robotics and Professor of Public Engagement at the University of Sheffield. He is co-founder and chair of the International Committee for Robot Arms Control (ICRAC), a group of experts concerned with the pressing dangers that military robots pose to peace and international security. Sharkey can speak on the technology that the campaign is seeking to prohibit and its ethical implications. See also: http://bit.ly/9fJQ7j

Mr. Steve Goose – Human Rights Watch, @hrw

Steve Goose is executive director of the Arms Division of Human Rights Watch and chair of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines and Cluster Munition Coalition (ICBL-CMC). Goose and Human Rights Watch were instrumental in bringing about the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions, the 1997 international treaty banning antipersonnel mines, the 1995 protocol banning blinding lasers, and the 2003 protocol on explosive remnants of war. Goose can speak on why a ban on fully autonomous weapons is necessary and achievable, and explain current US policy and practice. See also: http://bit.ly/USEBZo

Mr. Thomas Nash – Article 36, @nashthomas @article36

Thomas Nash is director of Article 36 and joint coordinator of the International Network on Explosive Weapons. As Coordinator of the Cluster Munition Coalition from 2004 to 2011, Nash led the global civil society efforts to secure the Convention on Cluster Munitions. Nash can speak about civil society expectations of UK policy, practice, and diplomacy on fully autonomous weapons.

Ms. Mary Wareham – Human Rights Watch, @marywareham, @hrw

Mary Wareham is advocacy director of the Arms Division of Human Rights Watch and initial coordinator of the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots. She worked on the processes that created the Convention on Cluster Munitions and the Mine Ban Treaty, and has worked to ensure their universalization and implementation.  Wareham can speak about the new Campaign to Stop Killer Robots and its initial plans.

Technical Experts

Dr. Jürgen Altmann – International Committee for Robot Arms Control

Jürgen Altmann is co-founder and vice-chair of the International Committee for Robot Arms Control. He is a physicist and peace researcher at Dortmund Technical University in Germany. Altmann has studied preventive arms control of new military technologies and new methods for the verification of disarmament agreements. He can speak about Germany’s policy and practice on fully autonomous weapons.

Dr. Peter Asaro – International Committee for Robot Arms Control, @peterasaro

Peter Asaro is co-founder and vice-chair of the International Committee for Robot Arms Control. He is a philosopher of technology who has worked in Artificial Intelligence, neural networks, natural language processing and robot vision research. Asaro is director of Graduate Programs for the School of Media Studies at The New School for Public Engagement in New York City. See also:  http://bit.ly/73JqBw

Ms. Bonnie Docherty – Human Rights Watch, @hrw

Bonnie Docherty is senior researcher in the Arms Division at Human Rights Watch and also a lecturer on law and senior clinical instructor at the International Human Rights Clinic at Harvard Law School. She has played an active role, as both lawyer and field researcher, in the campaign against cluster munitions. Docherty’s report Losing Humanity: The Case against Killer Robots outlines how fully autonomous weapons could violate the laws of war and undermine fundamental protections for civilians. See also: http://bit.ly/103PV4t

Mr. Richard Moyes – Article 36, @rjmoyes @article36

Richard Moyes is a managing partner at Article 36 and an honorary fellow at the University of Exeter. He was previously director of policy at Action on Armed Violence (formerly Landmine Action) and served as co-chair of the Cluster Munition Coalition. Moyes can speak about civil society expectations of UK policy, practice, and diplomacy on fully autonomous weapons. See also: http://bit.ly/103SAuS

 Steering Committee members

Human Rights Watch, www.hrw.org

Human Rights Watch is serving as initial coordinator of the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots. Over the past two decades, the Arms Division of Human Rights Watch has been instrumental in enhancing protections for civilians affected by conflict, leading the International Campaign to Ban Landmines that resulted in the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty and the Cluster Munition Coalition, which spurred the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions. It also led the effort that resulted in the pre-emptive prohibition on blinding laser weapons in 1995. In November 2012, Human Rights Watch and Harvard Law School’s International Human Rights Clinic launched the report Losing Humanity: The Case against Killer Robots, the first in-depth report by a non-governmental organization on the challenges posed by fully autonomous weapons.

Article 36 (UK), www.article36.org

Article 36 is a UK-based not-for-profit organization working to prevent the unintended, unnecessary or unacceptable harm caused by certain weapons. It undertakes research, policy and advocacy and promotes civil society partnerships to respond to harm caused by existing weapons and to build a stronger framework to prevent harm as weapons are used or developed in the future. In March 2012, Article 36 called for a ban on military systems that are able to select and attack targets autonomously.

Association for Aid and Relief Japan, www.aarjapan.gr.jp

Association for Aid and Relief, Japan is an international non-governmental organization founded in Japan in 1979. As a committed member of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, Association for Aid and Relief, Japan played a central role in convincing Japan to ban antipersonnel landmines and join the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty.

IKV Pax Christi  (The Netherlands)- www.ikvpaxchristi.nl

IKV Pax Christi is a peace organization based in the Netherlands. It works with local partners in conflict areas and seeks political solutions to crises and armed conflicts. In May 2011, Dutch NGO IKV Pax Christi published a report entitled Does Unmanned Make Unacceptable? Exploring the Debate on using Drones and Robots in Warfare.

International Committee for Robot Arms Control, http://icrac.net

The International Committee for Robot Arms Control (ICRAC) is a not-for-profit organization comprised of scientists, ethicists, lawyers, roboticists, and other experts. It works to address the potential dangers involved with the development of armed military robots and autonomous weapons. Given the rapid pace of development of military robots and the pressing dangers their use poses to peace, international security, the rule of law, and to civilians, ICRAC supports a ban on armed robots with autonomous targeting capability.

Mines Action Canada, www.minesactioncanada.org

Mines Action Canada is a coalition of over 35 Canadian non-governmental organizations working in mine action, peace, development, labour, health and human rights that came together in 1994. It is the Canadian partner of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines and a founding member of the Cluster Munition Coalition.

Nobel Women’s Initiative, nobelwomensinitiative.org

The Nobel Women’s Initiative was established in January 2006 by 1997 Nobel Peace Laureate and five of her sister Nobel Peace laureates. The Nobel Women’s Initiative uses the prestige of the Nobel Peace Prize and of courageous women peace laureates to magnify the power and visibility of women working in countries around the world for peace, justice and equality. In an April 2011 article for the International Journal of Intelligence Ethics, Nobel Peace Laureate Jody Williams calls for a ban on “fully autonomous attack and kill robotic weapons.”

Pugwash Conferences on Science & World Affairs, www.pugwash.org

A central main objective of Pugwash is the elimination of all weapons of mass destruction (nuclear, chemical and biological) and of war as a social institution to settle international disputes. To that extent, peaceful resolution of conflicts through dialogue and mutual understanding is an essential part of Pugwash activities, that is particularly relevant when and where nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction are deployed or could be used.

Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom www.wilpf.org

The Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) is the oldest women’s peace organization in the world. Its aims and principles include working toward world peace; total and universal disarmament; the abolition of violence and coercion in the settlement of conflict and their substitution in every case of negotiation and conciliation; the strengthening of the United Nations system; the continuous development and implementation of international law; political and social equality and economic equity; co-operation among all people; and an environmentally sustainable development.

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Media Advisory

MAC logo                               Print

Press Briefing to mark the campaign’s launch

 

When
Tuesday, April 23, 2013
10.30 a.m.-11.30a.m.

Where
The Frontline Club, 13 Norfolk Place, London W2 1QJ
(Closest tube stations: Paddington, Edgware Road and Lancaster Gate)

Press Briefing
At the press briefing, the campaign’s founders will outline their concerns with fully autonomous weapons, also known as “killer robots.” The new global coalition seeks a ban on these weapons that would be able to select targets and use lethal force without human intervention. The campaign’s call to action, composition, and initial activities will be explained and all your questions answered…

Speakers

Please see the biographies of these and other campaign spokespersons.

Contact
To confirm your participation or to schedule an interview, please contact:

  • UK media – Laura Boillot, Article 36, +44(0)7515-575-175, laura@article36.org
  • International media – Kate Castenson, Human Rights Watch, +1  (202) 612-4351 or +1-646-203-8292 (mobile), castenk@hrw.org

Video Footage

Social media information

For more information