Regional Conference on the Social and Humanitarian Impact of Autonomous Weapons


San José, Costa Rica


February 23, 2023


The Government of Costa Rica, in coordination with the Foundation for Peace and Democracy (FUNPADEM), will host the "Regional Conference on the social and humanitarian impact of autonomous weapons", which will take place on February 23 and 24, in Belén de Heredia.

The initiative is the first of its kind in the region and will attract government experts from Latin America and the Caribbean, as well as observer countries, representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross, the United Nations, academics and civil society leaders.

This exchange will be the basis of the regional dialogue on the humanitarian and social impacts of autonomous weapons, as well as the challenges that this type of weaponry poses to peace, security and humanitarian law.

The call reaffirms Costa Rica's position as an unarmed democracy, a neutral country and a world leader in peace initiatives, as well as its commitment to Latin America and the Caribbean as a region free of nuclear weapons and a Zone of Peace.

In this sense, the country joins the call of the Secretary General of the United Nations, António Guterres, who described autonomous weapons as "morally repugnant" and indicated that international law should prohibit those that operate without human participation.

Faced with reports on the development, sale and use of weapons with an increasing degree of autonomy, the Government of Costa Rica took the initiative to hold the conference.

After this call, it is expected to reactivate the international debate, with the purpose of contributing to the progress of the negotiations within the framework of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons and in other international forums. Said negotiations are carried out at the United Nations headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, and Costa Rica participates actively.

An approach to autonomous weapons. Although there is no agreed definition, the scientific and academic community, as well as civil organizations, define these weapons as those that select targets and apply force without human intervention.

When someone activates an autonomous weapon, they don't know exactly what people or objects they will attack, nor do they know precisely where or when that attack will occur. This is because such systems activate autonomously, in reaction to what their pre-programmed sensors detect in the field.

The important element is that the weapon would have autonomous "choice" regarding the selection of a target and the use of lethal force, without the need for any intervention by a human operator.

In 2021, the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Worship; Public Security, and Science, Innovation, Technology and Telecommunications, in conjunction with FUNPADEM, carried out the official launch of the national campaign "For a country free of autonomous weapons: technology at the service of peace." The plan was developed with the support of experts from the scientific, security and international humanitarian law areas, both from the country's public and private sectors.