South Africa has called for parliaments to work closely with governments to champion the establishment of a legally binding instrument that unequivocally bans the development, production and deployment of autonomous weapons systems not under human control or supervision.

Dr Annelie Lotriet yesterday made a statement on addressing the social and humanitarian impact of autonomous weapon systems and artificial intelligence, representing the South African delegation in the Standing Committee on Peace and International Security during the 147th Inter-Parliamentary Union Assembly currently taking place in Luanda, in Angola.

“As Members of Parliament, it is our responsibility to protect and uphold the values of human rights and international humanitarian law. We cannot ignore the potential dangers posed by autonomous weapons systems, which have the capability to operate without direct human control or supervision,” she said.

She observed that the legally binding instrument must be firmly grounded in the principles of international humanitarian law, fundamental human rights and ethical considerations. “Through collaboration with governments, we can shape legislation and policies that align with our vision of a world free from the risks associated with autonomous weapons,” she said.

The goal of parliamentarians, Dr Lotriet said, should be a ban that is clear, unambiguous and effectively enforced, ensuring that no room exists for misinterpretation or loopholes. “We must define the scope and parameters of autonomous weapons in a manner that safeguards against their development and holds those in violation accountable,” she said.

She further stated that, now more than ever, it is crucial that parliamentarians actively pursue this alliance with governments and engage in diplomatic efforts at the international level. “By highlighting the social, humanitarian and security concerns surrounding lethal autonomous weapons, we can rally support from other nations towards adopting similar legislation and establishing a unified, global approach to this challenge,” she said.

She also raised the importance of involving constituents and civil society in parliamentarians’ decision-making processes through public consultation. “By advocating for a legally agreed instrument, we can protect human rights, preserve international peace and security, and reinforce the multilateral system in addressing the challenges of our time,” she said.