2 March 2020
Artificial intelligence (AI) is bound to enable innovation in the decades to come. On the one hand, AI technologies may be used to improve societal well-being and help fight human rights abuses. On the other hand, AI presents a variety of challenges that can profoundly affect the respect for and protection of human rights. Therefore, it is important to place international human rights law (IHRL) at the centre of discussions about AI governance.
Our New Research Brief Human Rights and the Governance of Artificial Intelligence discusses the opportunities and risks that AI represents for human rights, recalls that IHRL should occupy a central place in the governance of AI and outlines two additional avenues to regulation: public procurement and standardization.
Written by Dr Ana Beduschi, Associate Professor of Law at the University of Exeter, the paper also calls for a more coordinated approach – under the United Nations leadership – that breaks silos and goes beyond sectoral and specialized audiences.
‘This paper manages to clearly present key challenges that AI raises for the promotion and protection of human rights and proposes solid and feasible pathways to ensure that AI does not infringe upon human rights. In an area where the debate is often blurry and the stakeholders do not speak the same language or understand the same concepts, it addresses everyone involved in the regulation of AI: the private sector with notably the technology industry, governments, international organizations, civil society and academia’ underlines Felix Kirchmeier, Manager of Policy Studies at the Geneva Academy and Executive Director of the Geneva Human Rights Platform.
Recently, a profusion of initiatives from a variety of actors spanning from the technology industry to international and regional organizations, academia and civil society, have focused on establishing ethical frameworks for the design and implementation of AI solutions.
‘While these are valuable initiatives that propose to identify core ethical principles applicable to AI, IHRL should also be taken into consideration as it provides a legally binding framework for dealing with potential human rights violations’ explains Dr Ana Beduschi.
Regulation is certainly important, in particular concerning data protection and privacy. Nonetheless, new models of governance, placed alongside regulatory frameworks and existing human rights instruments, are also needed.
‘In this paper, I identify two additional avenues to regulation that guarantee that IHRL occupies a prominent place in the governance of AI: public procurement and standardization’ underlines Dr Ana Beduschi.
As shown by the multitude of initiatives on AI, most stakeholders tend to operate in silos and produce multiple reports, guidelines, blueprints and statements of principles which often fail to reach beyond sectoral and specialized audiences.
‘The UN should take the lead and bring these stakeholders together, coordinating their efforts to tackle the challenges posed by AI and ensuring that human rights are firmly embedded into the design, development and deployment of AI systems across the globe’ stresses Dr Ana Beduschi.
This Research Brief is the result of the research that Dr Ana Beduschi carried out during a three-month fellowship at the Geneva Academy.
‘I am particularly grateful for the opportunity to engage and interact with the Geneva Academy researchers, staff, and experts. The friendly and productive ambience at Villa Moynier allowed me to develop my research on artificial intelligence and reflect on its implications for the protection of human rights in the digital age.’
An online expert consultation co-organized with the UN Human Rights’ B-Tech Project discussed regulatory and policy responses to human rights challenges linked to digital technologies.
UN Photo by Violaine Martin
Our new Working Paper Towards Transversal Standards to Evaluate the Impact of UN Special Procedures discusses the impact of UN Special Procedures, reviews progress made to measure it, and proposes avenues to improve this assessment.
The 2021 Annual Conference will discuss the connectivity between national human rights actors and the Geneva-based international mechanisms.
This short course, which can be followed in Geneva or online, will provide participants with an introduction to substantive human rights law. It will start with an introduction to the nature and sources of international human rights law and its place in the international legal system. The course will then provide a presentation of the main principles applicable to substantive rights (jurisdiction, obligation and limitations).
This short course, which can be followed in Geneva or online, analyses the main international and regional norms governing the international protection of refugees. It notably examines the sources of international refugee law, including the 1951 Geneva Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, and their interaction with human rights law and international humanitarian law.
The Geneva Human Rights Platform contributes to this review process by providing expert input via different avenues, by facilitating dialogue on the review among various stakeholders, as well as by accompanying the development of a follow-up resolution to 68/268 in New York and in Geneva.
Resulting from traditional legal research and informal interviews with experts, the project aims at examining how – if at all possible – IHL could be more systematically, appropriately and correctly dealt with by the human rights mechanisms emanating from the Charter of the United Nations, as well from universal and regional treaties.
UN PHOTO /Jean Marc Ferre