UN Adopts First Global Resolution For Artificial Intelligence

Rules surrounding artificial intelligence (AI) is on the radar of many national governments and regulators, but now the world body responsible for maintaining global peace and security has issued its own guidance.

Reuters reported that the United Nations General Assembly on Thursday unanimously adopted the first global resolution on artificial intelligence that encourages countries to safeguard human rights, protect personal data, and monitor AI for risks.

The issue of AI at the UN had been raised in July 2023, when the United Nations Security Council held its first meeting on artificial intelligence during the UK’s presidency of the security body last summer, as nations and governments grapple over its regulation and governance.

Bletchley Declaration

The UK’s Foreign Secretary James Cleverly, had chaired that meeting, and the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres had backed calls for the creation of a new UN body “to support collective efforts to govern this extraordinary technology.”

This body was to be modelled on the International Atomic Energy Agency, the International Civil Aviation Organisation, or the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

In October 2023 the UN tech envoy stated that an interim report on AI should stimulate international debate on governance of the tech.

And the AI governance body, with a membership of 39 people from across 33 countries, was also created at the same time, with the aim of fostering a consensus on the risks and challenges of the rapidly developing technology.

Then in November the United Kingdom hosted the first ever world summit to discuss AI safety, which resulted in the ‘Bletchley Declaration.’

That was the first international declaration on AI, which saw countries such as UK, US, EU, Australia, and China all reach an international agreement on how to keep artificial intelligence safe from rogue actors, and urging companies to create AI systems that are “secure by design.”

UN resolution

Now Reuters has reported that on Thursday this week, the UN General Assembly unanimously adopted the non-binding resolution, which had been proposed by the United States and co-sponsored by China and over 120 other nations.

The resolution also advocates the strengthening of privacy policies.

“Today, all 193 members of the United Nations General Assembly have spoken in one voice, and together, chosen to govern artificial intelligence rather than let it govern us,” US Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield was quoted as saying.

“The improper or malicious design, development, deployment and use of artificial intelligence systems … pose risks that could … undercut the protection, promotion and enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms,” the measure reported says.

US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan reportedly said it took nearly four months to negotiate the resolution, but that it gave the world “a baseline set of principles to guide next steps in AI’s development and use.”

National action

The issue of AI regulations is being addressed by many national governments and regulators at the moment.

Earlier this month the European Union Parliament officially approved the Artificial Intelligence Act, to govern the use of AI in the years ahead.

In the United States, President Biden had in October 2023 signed a wide-ranging executive order on AI that amongst other measures obliged companies developing the most powerful models to submit regular security reports to the federal government.

The Biden Administration has been pressing lawmakers for AI regulation, but a heavily divided US Congress has made little headway.

Prior to that earlier in 2023, the UK had set out its plan to regulate the AI sector and proposed five principles to guide its use via its “adaptable” AI plan, so as to not stifle innovation.

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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