Friday

19th Apr 2019

Killer robots debate shortened by unpaid bills

  • Drones can be designed to become killer robots, but a UN discussion on international consequences has been cut short because of a lack of cash (Photo: Skye Studios)

A United Nations working group has scheduled a meeting for November to discuss lethal autonomous weapons, after enough countries, including Spain and Greece, had paid their bills.

Their first meeting, scheduled for August, had been cancelled because the cash to finance the meeting rooms and translators was lacking.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

  • Some of the late payments are small when compared to national budgets (Photo: Ken Teegardin)

However, almost 50 countries still have not paid their contributions - either from this year, previous years, or both - casting doubts over whether future discussions can go ahead.

Last month, a group of more than 100 technology CEOs signed an open letter calling on the UN to prevent an arms race with lethal autonomous weapon systems - colloquially referred to as "killer robots".

The CEOs wrote that they regretted the August meeting - which was supposed to be the inaugural meeting - had been cancelled. They called on the working group, the Group of Governmental Experts (GGE), to "double their efforts" at the first meeting in November.

But the five-day August meeting has been cancelled, not postponed. This means that the UN experts will spend only five days instead of ten days this year on the issue.

The subject is pressing, however, since killer robot technology is advancing quickly.

"There is surprisingly little debate about some of the consequences," Soren Transberg Hansen, one of the open letter's signatories, told EUobserver last month.

In 2014, the European Parliament adopted a non-binding resolution which called on EU member states to "ban the development, production and use of fully autonomous weapons, which enable strikes to be carried out without human intervention".

But the most recent Council of the EU conclusions on the subject, from December 2016, showed such a ban is still far away.

The text, agreed on by member states, said only that the Council "appreciates the important work" done by the UN group, and noted that it hoped the GGE would begin work in 2017.

Extracurricular budget

The GGE is part of the UN's Conference of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW).

CCW meetings are extracurricular, and not funded from the central UN budget.

Since then, $55,308 (around €46,000) worth of payments came in - half of them from Spain and Greece. Last week, it was decided it was enough to fund the November session.

However, as of 31 August 2017, the CCW still had $336,322.37 (around €280,000) in outstanding payments, which are determined based on a country's GDP.

The bulk of that, 70 percent, is caused by subsequent unpaid bills from Brazil. Nevertheless, several European nations are also to blame.

Russia owes the CCW its 2017 contribution of $35,956.35 (around €30,000), while Ukraine has accumulated unpaid bills since 2009 - amounting to $10,467.37 (around €8,700).

According to the press office of Ukraine's foreign affairs ministry, the back payment has a "purely technical legislation background".

"As of now, Ukraine is preparing amendments to the ... legislation in the sphere of international financial obligations of our state. We expect this issue to be settled soon," it said in an e-mailed statement.

Finland owes the UN €12.50

Some of the late payments are small when compared to national budgets.

EU members with outstanding payments in relation to CCW are Finland ($15, or €12.50), Luxembourg ($617.05, or €516), Poland ($8,485.32, or €7,000), and Portugal ($2,952.97 or almost €2,500).

Mikko Autti, of the arms control unit at Finland's foreign ministry, explained that the unpaid contribution was "due to a human error".

"In fact, Finland has intended to pay its net contributions to the UN in a timely manner and in full and the minor payment gap is actually bank transfer fees, which also should have been paid by Finland," Autti wrote in an e-mail, noting the matter will be corrected.

The other countries did not reply to a request for comment.

The same problem exists for another UN groups on disarmament, the Anti Personnel Landmine Convention, which is missing around €40,000.

'Killer robots' are not about Terminator

A European signatory of an open letter about autonomous weapons says the imagery of fictional killer robots is distracting from a seriously dangerous issue.

EU should raise own taxes, says report

A group chaired by former Italian PM and EU commissioner Mario Monti says Brexit should be used to create EU-level levies to depend less on member states contributions, and to abolish member states rebates in the EU budget.

MEPs delay debate about 'killer robots'

"International regulation has to be agreed before the development gets completely out of hand," says one MEP as the European Parliament is due to vote on an EU defence fund that could see taxpayer-funded development of the controversial weapons systems.

EU agrees draft copyright reform, riling tech giants

After marathon talks, EU negotiators agree on provisional copyright reform, requiring companies to filter content to prevent unauthorized work on their platform. Online platforms and open-internet advocates warn it will hurt the free flow of information.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  2. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  3. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  4. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  5. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  9. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  10. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan

Latest News

  1. Romania drafts EU code on NGO migrant rescues
  2. Bulgaria, Hungary, and Malta shamed on press unfreedom
  3. EU drafts $20bn US sanctions list in aviation dispute
  4. Brunei defends stoning to death of gay men in EU letter
  5. US Democrats side with Ireland on Brexit
  6. Wifi or 5G to connect EU cars? MEPs weigh in
  7. How Brexit may harm the new EU parliament
  8. EU parliament backs whistleblower law

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  6. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  7. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  8. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  9. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  11. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  12. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us