On 22 December 2023, the United Nations AI Advisory Body – formed in October 2023 to analyse and advance recommendations for the international governance of AI – released its interim report: Governing AI for Humanity. Members of the Advisory Body include prominent figures from civil society, AI labs, and international organisations.
The report identifies a “global governance deficit” in relation to AI, as the development of these systems is “concentrated among a small group of private sector actors in an even smaller number of states”. The benefits and harms of these systems are also unevenly distributed; and are likely to remain so without concerted international intervention.
It goes on to explore how AI systems present both immense opportunities and numerous risks, particularly in the Global South. It notes that:
“18. The AI opportunity arrives at a difficult time, especially for the Global South. An “AI divide” lurks within a larger digital and developmental divide. According to ITU estimates for 2023, more than 2.6 billion people still lack access to the Internet. The basic foundations of a digital economy — broadband access, affordable devices and data, digital literacy, electricity that is reliable and affordable are not there. Fiscal space is constrained and the international environment for trade and investment flows is challenging. Critical investments will be needed in basic infrastructure such as broadband and electricity, without which the ability to participate in the development and use of AI will be severely limited.”
The report concludes by offering recommendations for how to approach the international governance of AI. Without prescribing the exact form governance should take, it outlines five principles that should guide international governance, and seven institutional functions that should be performed by either a single institution or a network of institutions.
- Inclusivity: all citizens, including those in the Global South, should be able to access and meaningfully use AI tools.
- Public interest: governance should go beyond the do no harm principle and define a broader accountability framework for companies that build, deploy and control AI, as well as downstream users.
- Centrality of data governance: AI governance cannot be divorced from the governance of data and the promotion of data commons.
- Universal, networked and multistakeholder: AI governance should prioritise universal buy-in by countries and stakeholders. It should leverage existing institutions through a networked approach.
- International Law: AI governance needs to be anchored in the UN Charter, International Human Rights Law, and the Sustainable Development Goals.
The AI Advisory Body will be consulting with a diverse range of stakeholders including governments, the private sector, civil society, and research and technical communities, to address several questions left open by the interim report, ahead of the release of the final report sometime in the middle of 2024. In particular, they will “dive deep” on a few pressing issues, including open-source, AI and the financial sector, standard-setting, intellectual property, human rights, and the future of work.
They are actively seeking submissions and inputs from anyone with an interest in AI governance. The deadline for online submissions is 31 March 2024.
Read more about the interim report here.
Submit your input to the AI Advisory body here.
Read ALT Advisory’s initial submissions to the Advisory Body here.
Please note: The information contained in this note is for general guidance on matters of interest, and does not constitute legal advice. For any enquiries, please contact us at [email protected].