Sierra Leone’s Embassy in Geneva, Switzerland, recently convened a preparatory meeting with ambassadors from ECOWAS member states. The focus: a first-of-its-kind regional conference on the worrying implications of Autonomous Weapons Systems (AWS) for peace and security.

The conference, set for April 17-18 in Freetown, Sierra Leone, aims to foster a unified approach among ECOWAS countries on this critical issue.

Dr. Lansana Gberie, Sierra Leone’s ambassador in Geneva, highlighted the growing unease surrounding autonomous weapons. He pointed to the ease of replicating and transferring these technologies, raising fears of misuse by non-state actors. Additionally, autonomous decision-making in weapons systems bypasses human oversight, potentially destabilizing regional security.

Recognizing the gravity of the situation, Sierra Leone is stepping forward to lead regional discussions. The conference aims to:

Spark Open Dialogue: Facilitate frank exchanges among ECOWAS member states to establish a common regional stance against the threats posed by AWS.

Forge a Regional Consensus: Develop a strong outcome document reflecting a collective commitment to address the challenges of AWS and promote peace, security, and humanitarian values within ECOWAS and beyond.

Advocate for Global Action: Reinforce Sierra Leone’s dedication to ongoing international efforts for a legally binding instrument regulating autonomous weapons systems, ensuring human control remains paramount.

The Geneva meeting comes after a similar conference held last year in Costa Rica, underscoring the international concern about autonomous weapons.

The upcoming conference in Freetown presents a crucial opportunity for ECOWAS nations to unite and chart a course towards a safer future, free from the dangers posed by autonomous weapons systems.