2015 Award Paper United Kingdom General Assembly First Committee

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is resolved to discussing and collaborating on the issues facing the United Nations General Assembly First Committee in hopes of achieving a consensus on a solution suitable for all. Each topic presents its own weight of severity to each member state represented in this committee. Of note, the United Kingdom desires to address the topic of Prohibiting Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems as this new technology lacks proper international framework and is increasingly becoming the next threat to the integrity of human rights, as well as international law.

  1. Prohibiting Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland acknowledges the potential threats of Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems (LAWS) and urges solidarity amongst the global community in recognizing the necessary international framework to provide guidance and control on the development, production, and operational use of LAWS in order to guarantee the safety of innocence and maintain the integrity of humanitarian law. The United Kingdom commends the members of the United Nations General Assembly’s First Committee on the previous relative topics of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) and Semi-Autonomous Weaponry, and looks forward to the new deliberations regarding LAWS. In recent discussion, there has been a lack of a comprehensive consensus on the definition of LAWS. The United Kingdom supports the definition outlined by the United Nations’ (UN) Special Rapporteur Christof Heyns in his report to the Human Rights Council (HRC) stating, “Lethal autonomous robotics (LARs) are weapon systems that, once activated, can select and engage targets without further human intervention;” however, the United Kingdom interprets the definition of “human intervention” on a separate scale, and extends the term “human control” to the parameters set within the autonomous systems by operational controls. The United Kingdom furthermore reaffirms the necessity of human involvement in lethal weapon systems and assures the international community there are no planned autonomous weapons systems within the United Kingdom that will possess the capability to prosecute human targets without appropriate levels of human control. The United Kingdom despite having established our own restrictive national policies on the production and development, does not support the proposal of an international moratorium on LAWS. In the international context, the current legal framework, such as the Geneva conventions, as well as international humanitarian law, as interpreted by the United Kingdom, would prohibit the production and development of a weapon system that cannot guarantee the safety and protection of human life and rights. Thus the United Kingdom acknowledges that any development or operational use of autonomous weapon systems should be in accordance with international laws, as well as the law of armed conflict which addresses the moral and ethical aspects of these weapon systems to ensure adherence to principles of discrimination, proportionality, military necessity and humanity to protect people from unnecessary suffering. The United Kingdom, like many States, is hesitant of the operational usage of LAWS as the artificial intelligence (AI) of the modern era, is currently incapable of fully interpreting rules of engagement as well as situational factors and emphasizes the usage of these systems should be limited to operating environments with easily distinguishable targets with minimal chance of innocent casualties or unnecessary destruction. The United Kingdom supports the continuation of discussion and recommends the international community adhere to the existing frameworks prohibiting the production and development of lethal weapon systems that possess the capability of harming or killing innocent lives. The United Kingdom advises States to institute national frameworks to restrict the production, development, and operational usage of LAWS on the following requirements; adequate intelligence information, advanced operational planning, and accountability of actions. Prior to any operational use, adequate intelligence must be acquired to guarantee the law of armed conflict is abided. Additionally, advanced planning must be conducted to ensure the safety of innocent life, as well as parameters within operating controls must guarantee LAWS will not wrongfully prosecute a target. The United Kingdom advises a level of transparency be upheld to ensure States’ usage of LAWS are held accountable. This being stated, accountability of weapon systems, in all aspects, must be maintained to ensure the prevention of acquisition by non-state actors as well as to ensure in the event international law is breached those in question can be held accountable.

  1. The Control of Biological Weapons in Today’s Modern Era

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland would first and foremost like to commend all member states on their efforts of addressing the topic of Biological Weapons and the potential destruction they can create. We applaud all member states that have signed and ratified the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxic Weapons and Their Destruction (BTWC) and acknowledges all measures that the international community has taken to prevent and eliminate the use of this type of Weapon of Mass Destruction. Of note, the United Kingdom urges all remaining twenty-three non-signatories, to sign and ratify the BTWC at the earliest available time. Recalling the affirmations made at the Geneva Protocol of June, 17, 1925, as well as the commitments made to the BTWC, it is clear great strides have been made by the International Community in the pursuit of strengthening these frameworks, however, even more steps are necessary. The United Kingdom urges all nations involved in science and technology development of bacterial or toxic materials, to enhance or instill national policies governing their scientific practices, as well as measures of security and safekeeping. In addition to this, the United Kingdom urges members to consider the establishment of national central authorities responsible for enforcing and holding organizations accountable to the BTWC. Recalling Resolutions A/RES/68/69, A/RES/69/82, as well as considerations from the House of Commons’ Biological Weapons Green Paper; the United Kingdom asks all nations to maintain transparency between states on dual-use capabilities. Remembering the tragedies that shook the world following the terrorist attack in the United States on September 11th, 2001, such as use of Bacillus anthracis (Anthrax) and Salmonella by non-state actors, have drawn to light the necessity of creating an international framework, to work in conjunction with the BTWC. The United Kingdom recommends the creation of a monitoring and advisory program similar to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that works alongside the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). An agency such as this, would provide guidance on proper facility management, safe methods for destruction of harmful agents, as well as proper measures for safeguarding research and potential technology advances, such as medical agents that are potential dual use technologies. Such an organization, would work alongside the World Heath Organization (WHO) and national centers of disease prevention and control to ensure accountability, cooperation, and transparency of the research, production, development, as well as facilitation and transportation of potentially hazardous agents or dual-use technologies. In addition to this, the United Kingdom urges all nations, to cease production of any weapon system that can act as a medium for disseminating or transporting harmful agents, such as modified ballistic missiles or aerosol sprays. The United Kingdom desires such a Protocol of compliance to be established to guarantee the protection of innocence from potential use of biological weapons, as well as to safeguard such technologies and research from hostile non-state actors.

  • Confidence-Building Measures in a Regional and Sub-regional Context

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland strongly supports the implementation of confidence-building measures (CBM) and to establish preventive actions in order to maintain peace and security. The United Kingdom acknowledges this is foremost necessary at regional and sub-regional levels. The United Kingdom commends member states such as Pakistan and India in their continued efforts of establishing CBMs in regards to their Nuclear Programs. Furthermore, the United Kingdom recognizes the extensive efforts of European member states in their participation in treaties and agreements such as the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe’s and the Treaty on Open Skies. The United Kingdom recognizes the importance of CBMs as they ultimately enhance international relations as suggested in Resolution A/RES/67/49 and A/RES/68/44. Furthermore, the United Kingdom advises the establishment of regional confidence measures, specifically relating to communication. Communications and information sharing between nations will ease neighborly tensions as well as increase cooperation on a variety of shared issues. In sub-regional conflict areas, the United Kingdom recommends the establishment of demilitarized zones (DMZ), such as between the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and the Republic of Korea. In addition to this, the United Kingdom supports the creation of regional forums such as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia that facilitates political discussions between members of the specific region. The creation of regional forums, such as in the Middle-East and Levant region, would encourage open dialogue between all nations residing within the region. The current concern of such a forum would be Israel’s lack of support within the Levant. The United Kingdom supports the concept of a Middle-East and Levant forum, however notes the necessity for an outside party to act as a mediator. In addition to this, the United Kingdom supports the establishment of a Nuclear Weapons Free Zone within the Middle-East, similar to the Nuclear Weapons Free Zone established in Africa under the Treaty of Pelindaba, which prevents the development, production, or possession on any form of nuclear weapon. Such a measure would allow for peaceful technology sharing and would ultimately eliminate the threat of nuclear war between the nuclear states in the region. United Kingdom further urges sanctions against arms suppliers whose product were found in illicit hands. We call for an international instrument to regulate SALWs among civilian populations to curb against escalation of crime and violence against women and children. United Kingdom encourages assistance to developing States, especially Africa, in implementing national regulations and enforcement of illicit small arms to meet international standards. We express appreciation to UN Development Programme (UNDP) and Programme for Coordination and Assistance for Security Development in Africa (PCASED) in steering Arms for Development Project in southeastern Niger. The project aims at disarming and destroying Arms obtained from local communities, promoting political stability and economic development in the region.


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