UN General Assembly adopts landmark resolution on AI

“The same rights that people have offline must also be protected online, including throughout the life cycle of artificial intelligence systems,” it affirmed."

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UN General Assembly adopts landmark resolution on AIThe UN General Assembly adopted a landmark resolution on Thursday on the promotion of “safe, secure and trustworthy” artificial intelligence (AI) systems that will also benefit sustainable development for all.

Adopting a United States-led draft resolution without a vote, the Assembly also highlighted the respect, protection, and promotion of human rights in the design, development, deployment, and use of AI.

The text was “co-sponsored” or backed by more than 120 other Member States.

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The General Assembly also recognised AI systems’ potential to accelerate and enable progress towards reaching the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

It represents the first time the assembly has adopted a resolution on regulating the emerging field. The US National Security Advisor reportedly said earlier this month that the adoption would represent an “historic step forward” for the safe use of AI.

The assembly called on all Member States and stakeholders “to refrain from or cease the use of artificial intelligence systems that are impossible to operate in compliance with international human rights law or that pose undue risks to the enjoyment of human rights.”

“The same rights that people have offline must also be protected online, including throughout the life cycle of artificial intelligence systems,” it affirmed.

The assembly also urged all States, the private sector, civil society, research organisations and the media, to develop and support regulatory and governance approaches and frameworks related to safe, secure and trustworthy use of AI.

The assembly further recognised the “varying levels” of technological development between and within countries, and that developing nations face unique challenges in keeping up with the rapid pace of innovation.

It urged Member States and stakeholders to cooperate with and support developing countries so they can benefit from inclusive and equitable access, close the digital divide, and increase digital literacy.

Speaking before the adoption, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, U.S. Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the UN, introduced the draft resolution.

She expressed hope that the “inclusive and constructive dialogue that led to this resolution would serve as a model for future conversations on AI challenges in other arenas, for example, with respect to peace and security and responsible military use of AI autonomy.”

Thomas-Greenfield noted that the resolution was designed to amplify the work already being done by the UN, including the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the Human Rights Council.

“We intend for it to complement future UN initiatives, including negotiations toward a global digital compact and the work of the Secretary-General’s high-level advisory body on artificial intelligence,” she said.

Thomas-Greenfield also highlighted the opportunity and the responsibility of the international community “to govern this technology rather than let it govern us”.

“So let us reaffirm that AI will be created and deployed through the lens of humanity and dignity, safety and security, human rights and fundamental freedoms.

“Let us commit to closing the digital gap within and between nations and using this technology to advance shared priorities around sustainable development,” she said.