Experts Discuss the Role of Human Rights in AI Governance

9 June 2022

As artificial intelligence (AI) rapidly becomes more pervasive, norms and processes for its governance are being developed at pace. At present there is a proliferation of initiatives, with over 170 sets of principles on AI ethics, many countries considering regulation, and some international organisations adopting normative frameworks. Many of these initiatives make no or only passing reference to human rights.

At a roundtable organised by Chatham House and hosted by our Geneva Human Rights Platform, experts addressed the role of human rights in AI governance, how to ensure that the international human rights framework is properly integrated into new regulatory frameworks, as well as the role of human rights communities in these processes.

‘This is both a fascinating and challenging subject that really tests our capacity to ensure that new technologies – that evolve almost daily – do not undermine our human rights and are framed by relevant regulatory frameworks’ explains Felix Kirchmeier, Executive Director of the Geneva Human Rights Platform.

‘This meeting – part of the Chatham House project on Human Rights Pathways that brings together academics, diplomats, civil society, corporate actors and representatives of international organizations – is key to meeting this challenge. In our upcoming report, we will reflect on the inputs from all those stakeholders’, says Chanu Peiris, Assistant Director of the International Law at The Royal Institute of International Affairs (Chatham House).

Ensuring that Human Rights and Tech Discussions don’t Take Place in Separate Worlds

Experts notably addressed key questions like the appropriate role of human rights in AI governance, whether human rights help to streamline and concretise AI ethics and regulation, as well as whether human rights have sufficient scope to address the challenges of AI.

‘We had in-depth discussions on the processes that government and companies should follow in order to meet AI human rights standards, ranging from the prohibition of troubling forms of AI, to review mechanisms such as assurance, audit, and oversight, to the transparency of AI and remedies for harms’ explains Felix Kirchmeier.

Key issues in these processes are how human rights communities – at the international organisation, governmental, and civil society levels – can play an effective role in the development of AI governance, as well as how to ensure that the human rights discussions and tech discussions don’t take place in ‘separate but parallel’ worlds he adds.

A Larger Research at the Geneva Academy

This discussion echoes research conducted at the Geneva Academy – in partnership with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights B-Tech Project and the Geneva Science-Policy Interface – that facilitates a multistakeholder consultative process to identify knowledge gaps, generate new evidence and co-design evidence-based tools to support regulatory and policy responses to human rights challenges linked to digital technologies.

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