3 April 2018
UN Secretary-General Discusses Maximizing Security Benefits of Technology, Mitigating Dangers
UN Photo/Cia Pak
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UN Secretary General António Guterres expressed confidence that scientific and technological advances can help lift millions out of poverty and achieve the SDGs.

He called for improving global awareness and understanding the implications of these interlinked technological advances on international peace and security.

The address took place at the Turtle Bay Security Roundtable, organized by the Permanent Mission of Japan and the Stimson Center.

23 March 2018: At a roundtable event organized by the Permanent Mission of Japan and the Stimson Center, UN Secretary‑General António Guterres highlighted the role of new technologies in enhancing peace and security. The roundtable met on the theme, ‘Managing the Frontiers of Technology,’ and participants discussed maximizing the benefits of the technological revolution while mitigating and preventing its dangers.

During his address, Guterres said the advances of the “fourth Industrial Revolution,” including those related to computing power, robotics, big data and artificial intelligence (AI), are leading to revolutions in health care, transport and manufacturing. He expressed confidence that these advances can help lift millions out of poverty and achieve the SDGs. He highlighted the use of blockchain in nuclear safeguards or machine learning in multilateral disarmament verification, as examples of ways for new technologies to support disarmament and non-proliferation.

Noting that the UN has been using drones in peacekeeping operations, Guterres also pointed to obvious risks, such as new methods and means of warfare, which could potentially allow armed conflict to be waged from “greater distances, at faster speeds and with enhanced destructive power.” He lamented that because of the “democratization” of many of these technologies, terrorist groups and other non-State actors could acquire them. He also explained that innovations intended for civilian applications, such as synthetic biology or facial recognition software, could be used in a destructive manner.

Guterres highlighted potential responses to such risks, including: industry self-regulation, such as codes of conduct, to promote responsible innovation; implementation of national measures such as legal weapons reviews; confidence-building measures such as political declarations on the use of weapons; and, if necessary, international legally binding instruments. He also called for multi-stakeholder dialogue on the implications of technological advances on international peace and security. He cited the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, which deals with lethal autonomous weapons systems, as an example of multi‑stakeholder dialogue under the UN architecture.

Guterres discussed his intention to launch an initiative to further guide and motivate the global disarmament agenda that will consider risks and challenges posed by the “weapons of the future.” He also said that at the UN General Assembly’s (UNGA) request, he will prepare a report on developments in science and technology and their potential impact on international security and disarmament for consideration at UNGA 73.

The Turtle Bay Security Roundtable took place at the Japan Society in New York, US, on 23 March 2018. [Statement of the UN Secretary-General] [Video of Address]

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