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UN: Can AI and Autonomy be Used Responsibly in the Military?

AI and autonomy are increasingly being utilised in the military sector, particularly by the United States and its coalition partners, to enhance their defence capabilities. We look at what was decided at the UN.

At the launch event for the Political Declaration on Responsible Military Use of Artificial Intelligence and Autonomy, Under Secretary Benjamin Jenkins addressed the endorsers, highlighting the importance of global action for responsible AI development and use.

The Declaration aims to establish measures for responsible behavior and a mechanism for states to discuss and address challenges faced by militaries when adopting AI systems.

The United States is committed to doing its part and looking forward to working with partners on this endeavor for years to come.

The Declaration aims to establish strong norms for responsible development and deployment, enabling nations to harness the potential benefits of AI systems in the military domain while encouraging steps that avoid irresponsible, destabilizing, and reckless behavior.

The 45 endorsers joined together to lay the groundwork for responsible military use of AI and autonomy, and the initiative encourages broad participation from as many endorsers as possible to achieve a shared understanding on these issues.

The Declaration of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) has launched the first multilateral instrument and State dialogue on the full range of uses of AI and autonomy in the military domain. It provides a basis for a more concrete dialogue on what "responsible" means in practice and how to exercise "appropriate care" in practical applications.

The Declaration also emphasizes the need to widen the aperture to consider the full range of military applications and focus more explicitly on AI rather than just autonomy. It calls on States to ensure military AI capabilities have explicit, well-defined uses and are designed and engineered to fulfill those intended functions. It also calls for transparent methodologies, data sources, design procedures, and documentation to enable internal traceback and corrective actions in case of failure.

The Declaration underscores the importance of safety, calling for appropriate safeguards to mitigate risks of failures in military AI capabilities.

The initiative aims to foster collaboration among endorsers by providing a foundation for exchanges, sharing best practices, expert-level exchanges, and capacity-building activities. The Declaration is designed to be flexible, allowing for progress in shared understanding of AI-enabled systems.

The success of the initiative should be measured in the progress made in enabling and motivating States to implement these practices. The initiative is also characterized by its inclusivity, involving a large and diverse group of states from different regions and perspectives.

The goal is to reduce risks and uncertainties brought by AI tools in the military domain and strengthen compliance with international humanitarian law. The initial version of the Declaration, which included a commitment to maintain human control and involvement for actions critical to nuclear weapons employment, was removed to avoid stumbling blocks for states to endorse.

The current Declaration is a strong statement of shared norms of responsible behavior and an excellent foundation for further dialogue and engagement with the international community.

Political Declaration on Responsible Military Use of Artificial Intelligence and Autonomy BUREAU OF ARMS CONTROL, DETERRENCE, AND STABILITY

Fundamentally, it is our belief that technology with global impact deserves global action. And so, to provide order and stability in the midst of global technological change, I firmly believe that we must be guided by a common set of understandings among nations. […] The United States will continue to work with our allies and partners to apply existing international rules and norms to AI and work to create new rules and norms. VICE PRESIDENT KAMALA HARRIS, NOVEMBER 1, 2023

The Political Declaration on Responsible Military Use of Artificial Intelligence and Autonomy provides a normative framework addressing the use of these capabilities in the military domain.

Launched in February 2023 at the Responsible AI in the Military Domain Summit (REAIM 2023) in the Hague, the Declaration aims to build international consensus around responsible behavior and guide states’ development, deployment, and use of military AI. The Declaration provides a basis for exchanging best practices and building states’ capacities, which will allow endorsing states to share experience and ideas.

The United States will convene a regular dialogue among endorsing states to further promote international support for and implementation of these responsible practices. Endorsing states will meet in the first quarter of 2024 to begin this next phase.

The United States encourages all states to support the Declaration and join with other endorsing states to promote responsible military use of AI and autonomy.

Endorsing States Endorsing States as of November 13, 2023 include: Armenia Albania Australia Austria Belgium Bulgaria Canada Croatia Cyprus Czech Republic Denmark Estonia Finland France Georgia Germany Greece Hungary Iceland Ireland Italy Japan Kosovo Latvia Liberia Libya Lithuania Luxembourg Malawi Malta Montenegro Morocco Netherlands North Macedonia Portugal Romania San Marino Singapore Slovakia Slovenia Spain South Korea Sweden Türkiye United Kingdom United States

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