Building a better understanding of the impact of emerging technologies on international peace and security has become a key requisite for ensuring this Organization is fit to meet the challenges of the future.
Developments and trends, 2021
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic’s continued impact on multilateral disarmament and arms control processes throughout 2021, the international community achieved important progress during the year on several emerging challenges related to developments in science and technology and their implications for international peace and security.
Regarding outer space, the General Assembly decided in December to establish a new open-ended working group in 2022 to develop recommendations on, inter alia, norms, rules and principles of responsible behaviours (76/77). That mandate followed the issuance in July of a substantive report of the Secretary-General, developed pursuant to resolution 75/36. The United Nations Disarmament Commission, which had adopted an agenda item on outer space for consideration during its 2018–2020 cycle, was again unable to convene its substantive session owing to unresolved procedural issues relating to the issuance of visas for certain delegations. (For more information on the Disarmament Commission, see chap. VII.)
On information and communications in the context of international security, the two previously established intergovernmental processes in that field successfully concluded their respective work with the adoption of consensus reports (A/76/135 and A/75/816). A new open-ended working group commenced its work in 2021 under a five-year mandate, holding its organizational session in June and its first substantive session in December. In the General Assembly, the Russian Federation and the United States tabled a joint resolution on the relevant agenda item (76/19), returning to a single consensus text on the subject.
On autonomous weapons systems, the Group of Governmental Experts on Emerging Technologies in the Area of Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems agreed only on annexing to its report the draft conclusions and recommendations submitted by the Chair and discussed by the Group, on which no consensus was reached. The sixth Review Conference of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons included language in its declaration and adopted a new mandate for the group to resume work in 2022. (For more information, see chap. III.)