More than three in every five people responding to a new poll in 26 countries oppose the development of weapons systems that would select and attack targets without human intervention, Human Rights Watch said today.
The survey by the market research company Ipsoswas commissioned by the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, which Human Rights Watch coordinates, and conducted in December 2018. Sixty one percent of respondents said they oppose the use of lethal autonomous weapons systems, also known as fully autonomous weapons, while 22 percent support such use and 17 percent said they were not sure. In a near-identical survey in 23 countries by the same company in January 2017, 56 percent were opposed, 24 percent not opposed, and 19 percent unsure.
“Public sentiment is hardening against the prospect of fully autonomous weapons,” said Mary Wareham, the Arms Division advocacy director at Human Rights Watch and coordinator of the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots. “Bold political leadership is needed for a new treaty to preemptively ban these weapons systems.”
The annual meeting of the Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW) in Geneva decided in November 2018 to continue diplomatic talks on killer robots with no clear objective or timetable for negotiating a treaty, showing why a new avenue is urgently needed to prohibit these weapons before they become operational, Human Rights Watch said. In November, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, called lethal autonomous weapons systems “politically unacceptable and morally repugnant” and urged states to prohibit them.
The 2018 Ipsos survey used respondent pools of 500 – 1,000 people in each country. The strongest opposition was in Turkey (78%), South Korea (74%), and Hungary (74%).
Opposition was strong for both women (62%) and men (60%) although men are more likely to favor these weapons (26%) compared to women (18%). Opposition increased with age: those most opposed were ages 50 to 64 (68%).