Economic Relations, Connectivity & Innovation

International Security and Lethal Autonomous Weapons

10/12/2018 - 12:15
News stories

Exploring how Artificial Intelligence can deliver for human advancement and international peace is a key pillar of the work of the Global Tech Panel. A top and hot priority is to help develop and implement the principles of ethical and responsible innovation to govern the development of technologies used in weapons systems, and to ensure accountability and compliance with international law.

Global Tech Panel, Lethal Autonomous Weapons, CCCW

International security and the regulatory framework for Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems have been a priority for the Global Tech Panel since its inception. With the EU strategy on Artificial Intelligence (AI) adopted in December 2018, the Panel members will over the coming months provide substantive expert input to help ensure the development of AI which can be used in weapons systems fully complies with international law and respects human dignity. The Panel meeting of 9 March in Seattle was largely dedicated to this theme.

The strategy highlights that the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy will, with the support of the Commission, build on consultations in the United Nations, the Global Tech Panel, and other multilateral fora, and coordinate proposals for addressing these complex security challenges. 

How governments should manage the rise of AI to ensure we harness the opportunities while also addressing the threats of the digital era is a major international debate. The EU position is clear, and can be summed up in four points:

  • International  law, including International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights Law, applies to all weapons systems;
  • Humans must make the decisions with regard to the use of lethal force, exert control over the lethal weapons systems they use, and remain accountable for decisions over life and death;
  • The UN Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons is the appropriate framework to discuss regulate these kinds of weapons; and
  • Given the dual use of emerging technologies, policy measures should not hamper civilian research, including artificial intelligence (AI).

EU High Representative Mogherini, the Chair of the Global Tech Panel, outlined this position on 11 September in an address to the European Parliament, which thereafter adopted a Resolution to this effect.


In April 2018, the European Commission issued a Communication on Artificial Intelligence, initiating the elaboration of an EU Strategy on AI. Following discussions by Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Ministers of Defence, EU Heads of State and Government sitting in the European Council are expected to adopt Conclusions in December 2018 which will further detail how the EU will act in this area.

In parallel, the EU will contribute into the work of the United Nations’ Group of Governmental Experts on Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems, which has agreed on a first set of "Possible Guiding Principles". The parties to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons are due to meet again on 28 November 2018.


Views from the Global Tech Panel members:


Future of Life Institute: Lethal Autonomous Weapons pledge