Audio link by Ms Doris Dlakude:

Parliament, Sunday, 24 March 2024 – Members of the multi-party delegation at the 148th Assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) underway in Geneva, Switzerland, presented Parliament’s proposed amendments to the draft resolutions which were considered by the IPU’s Standing Committees on Peace and International Security and the Sustainable Development today.

Member of the delegation, Ms Doris Dlakude, presented Parliament’s proposed amendments to the draft resolution on the social humanitarian impact of autonomous weapon systems and artificial intelligence, which the IPU’s Peace and International Security Committee considered. Ms Fikile Masiko presented Parliament’s proposed amendments at the Sustainable Development Committee meeting. The committee considered a draft resolution on partnerships for climate action to promote access to affordable green energy and ensure responsible and equitable innovation.

The draft resolution on the social humanitarian impact of autonomous weapon systems and artificial intelligence is intended, among others, to address the implications of developing autonomous weapons that can function without human intervention, highlighting the risks and consequences, especially from social and humanitarian perspectives. “The risks and consequences stemming from the proliferation of such advanced technologies have the potential to unleash profound social and humanitarian implications, and it is our responsibility as parliamentarians to address these critical challenges proactively,” Ms Dlakude said.
The South African Parliament’s proposals enhance and strengthen the draft resolution by proposing the inclusion of armed conflicts and the prohibition of lethal autonomous weapon systems targeting humans directly. The proposal also stresses the responsibility of parliaments and parliamentarians in overseeing the development, acquisition, and use of lethal autonomous weapons.

The submission further proposes that parliaments urge governments to establish robust frameworks for data protection to govern the development, deployment, and use of lethal autonomous weapons, safeguard sensitive data, and ensure ethical and responsible use of information in autonomous weapon systems. Parliament’s submission also proposes for parliaments to establish effective mechanisms to conduct investigations, prosecution, and punishment for violations arising from the use of weapons with autonomous functionalities.

Ms Dlakude said the advent of lethal autonomous weapons systems represents a monumental shift in warfare that demands the immediate attention of parliamentarians. “The absence of human intervention in decision-making processes poses a fundamental threat to the ethical and legal standards that underpin the principles of warfare. It is imperative for us to recognise that these systems have the potential to disrupt the delicate balance in conflict settings, posing considerable risks to civilian populations and global stability,” she said.

Ms Dlakude emphasised the vital role of parliamentarians, arguing that they are presented with a critical task of fostering a comprehensive understanding of the multifaceted challenges posed by lethal autonomous weapons, while also advocating for the implementation of legislative measures that are aligned with international humanitarian law and human rights norms. “We have a responsibility to ensure that appropriate regulatory frameworks are in place, reflecting our commitment to ethical and legal principles, and safeguarding the well-being of individuals and communities affected by the deployment of these advanced technologies,” she said.

“By supporting this resolution, we take a crucial step towards advancing a robust and proactive approach to governing the development and use of these technologies. It underscores our commitment to understanding and addressing the complex societal and humanitarian implications of autonomous weapons, ultimately amplifying the ethical considerations governing the use of force in armed conflicts.”
She further pleaded with parliamentarians to recognise the weight of this responsibility and to pledge their “united commitment to upholding international humanitarian law and human rights, while leveraging our parliamentary influence to safeguard the welfare of our global community”.

Meanwhile, presenting Parliament’s proposed amendments to the draft resolution on partnership for climate action, Ms Masiko said: “Climate change is not just an environmental matter. It's an economic, social, and moral issue that requires our urgent attention and resolute action.”

She said this resolution is not just a symbolic gesture but a commitment to real, impactful change that parliamentarians are uniquely positioned to endorse, implement, and uphold. “This resolution is a call to action for us to innovate, legislate, and advocate for change within our national and international spheres. As parliamentarians, we are tasked with the weighty responsibility of translating words into laws, policies, and regulations that will shape our collective response to the climate crisis, ensuring that it meets the needs of our citizens and the environment,” she said.

The draft resolution, among others, emphasises the need to increase awareness among parliamentarians about their role and tools to contribute effectively to climate action. The South African Parliament’s proposals seeks to strengthen the resolution by proposing, among other things, to include SDG 7, which calls for enhanced international cooperation to facilitate access to clean energy research and technology, including renewable energy. It is also proposed that parliaments ensure meaningful and equal participation of women in climate action, including gender-responsive implementation and implementing the Lima Work Programme on Gender and its gender action plan to achieve climate goals.

The proposals also called for knowledge and participation of local communities, including youth, women, and indigenous peoples in the development and implementation of affordable green energy solutions and for more ambitious mitigation targets that are needed in National Determined Contributions to reduce emissions rapidly.
Ms Masiko said parliamentarians cannot afford to overlook the urgency of this moment, as the success of this resolution rests upon their commitment to championing green energy policies, allocating resources, and fostering multi-stakeholder partnerships in their respective nations. “We must engage with our governments, industries, and civil society to drive effective strategies and monitor the implementation of our climate commitments, including the provision of affordable green energy access to all. Together, let us not merely pass this resolution, but let us pledge to be the unwavering champions of its fulfilment,” she said.

The proposed amendments will be considered by the two Standing Committees tomorrow.

*The IPU is the global organisation of national parliaments with its slogan “For democracy. For everyone”. It aims to promote democratic governance, institutions, and values, working with parliaments and parliamentarians to articulate and respond to the needs and aspirations of the people. 

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