Vienna Hosts Major International Conference on Autonomous Weapons Systems

More+Events ♦ Published: April 28, 2024; 09:20 ♦ (Vindobona)

The historic Hofburg Palace in Vienna will be the center of global attention as it hosts the international conference entitled "Humanity at the Crossroads: Autonomous Weapons Systems and the Challenge of Regulation." The Vienna Conference on Autonomous Weapons Systems will take place from April 29 to 30, 2024.

Vienna's Hofburg Palace will host the international conference "Humanity at the Crossroads: Autonomous Weapons Systems and the Challenge of Regulation" on 29-30 April 2024. / Picture: © Dennis Jarvis/ Flickr Attribution (CC BY 2.0,

This crucial event, organized by the Austrian Federal Ministry for European and International Affairs, will bring together leaders and experts from around the world to discuss the emerging challenges and ethical implications of autonomous weapons systems (AWS).

Agenda and planned content

The conference will open with a keynote address by Jaan Tallinn, co-founder of the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk, who will highlight the transformative impact of artificial intelligence on military systems. "Autonomous weapons promise a new era in warfare but also pose significant risks that must be managed at an international level," Tallinn emphasizes. Following the keynote, high-level panels will address various aspects of AWS, including technological advancements, the future shape of conflict, and the crucial need for legal and ethical frameworks.

Panel discussions will be structured around several critical areas:

Emerging Technologies and the Shape of Conflict: This panel will set the scene for the conference by discussing where technological development in AWS is headed and its broader implications for international security and societal norms.

Human Control and Accountability under Law: Experts will debate the extent to which human oversight should be integrated into the use of AWS to ensure ethical operations and accountability, reflecting on the balance between automated decision-making and human ethical judgments.

Human Dignity and the Ethics of Algorithms: This session will focus on the ethical and human rights aspects related to AWS, such as the risks of bias in data sets and algorithms, and how these technologies affect the principles of human dignity when used in conflict.

Future Human-Technology Relations: The final panel will explore the broader societal implications of AWS, discussing how the handling of autonomous technologies today will shape future norms and standards in military and civilian sectors.

Additional content

The conference will also feature interactive stalls and side events during lunch breaks, allowing for more specialized discussions and networking among attendees. These include presentations from various NGOs and think tanks, which provided additional perspectives on the disarmament and regulation of AWS.

In addition to the formal agenda, a separate civil society forum titled "Action at the Crossroads" was organized by the International Campaign to Stop Killer Robots. Held at Palais Wertheim, this forum will invite public engagement and highlight the role of activism in shaping policy on autonomous weapons.

At the end of the conference, the chair's summary document will be prepared to capture the key insights and recommendations from the discussions. This document is intended to contribute to the upcoming UN General Assembly report, providing a foundation for future international policies and regulations concerning AWS.

This Vienna conference marks a significant step in the ongoing dialogue about the role and regulation of autonomous weapons systems in modern warfare and international security. The discussions underscored the complexity of AWS and the urgent need for a collaborative international approach to manage their development and deployment responsibly. The outcomes of this conference are expected to influence global policy decisions and encourage further research and cooperation on this critical issue.

More information about the program, registration and location can be found here!


Vienna Conference on Autonomous Weapons Systems - April 29, 2024
Time Event Speakers / Participants
08:30 - 10:00 Registration and Coffee
10:00 High-level Opening
10:15 - 10:30 Welcome and Opening Remarks Verena Gleitsmann, H.E. Alexander Schallenberg
10:35 - 11:20 Keynote Speech Jaan Tallinn
11:20 - 11:45 Coffee Break
11:45 - 12:30 Panel 1: Emerging Technologies, AWS and the (Future) Shape of Conflict Eline Bötger, George-Wilhelm Gallhofer
12:30 - 14:15 Lunch Break (Check Side Events Programme)
14:15 - 15:45 Panel 2: Human Control and Accountability Under the Law Co-moderator from Sierra Leone (tbc), Andreas Bilgeri
15:45 - 16:15 Coffee Break
16:15 - 17:45 Panel 3: Human Dignity and the Ethics of Algorithms Jan Michael Gomez, Dr. Caroline Wörgötter
17:45 End of Day 1
Vienna Conference on Autonomous Weapons Systems - April 30, 2024
Time Event Speakers / Participants
08:30 - 09:30 Coffee available and presentation / interactive stalls open
09:30 - 11:00 Panel 3 - Human dignity and the ethics of algorithms Jan Michael Gomez, Dr. Caroline Wörgötter, Peggy Hicks, Prof Amal El Fallah Seghrouchni, Dr Neil Renic, Dr Fan Yang, Anja Kaspersen
11:00 - 11:30 Coffee Break
11:30 - 13:00 Panel 4 - How dealing with AWS will shape future human-technology relations Ambassador Christian Guillermet Fernández, Ambassador Alexander Kmentt, Dr Patricia Lewis, Prof Mary Ellen O‘Connell, Dr Thompson Chengeta, Prof Kenneth Payne, Emilia Javorsky MD, MPH
13:00 - 14:30 Lunch
Check side events programme
14:30 - 16:00 Session 1 for statements by attending states and other stakeholders
16:00 - 16:30 Coffee Break
16:30 - 17:30 Session 2 for statements by attending states and other stakeholders
17:30 - 18:00 Closing session
Outcome document presentation

Austrian MFA