UN adopts historic AI resolution to safeguard human rights

The UN General Assembly overwhelmingly approved the world’s first global resolution on artificial intelligence (AI), aimed at safeguarding human rights and mitigating associated risks. Proposed by the United States and co-sponsored by China and over 120 nations, the resolution mandates countries to protect personal data and address potential threats posed by AI, such as job displacement and electoral misinformation.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield hailed the resolution as a unified effort to regulate AI’s impact. This resolution joins a series of global initiatives attempting to influence AI development, reflecting concerns over its potential to disrupt democratic processes, facilitate fraud, and precipitate significant job losses.

The resolution underscores the necessity of preventing the improper or malevolent use of AI systems, which could compromise human rights and fundamental freedoms. In November, the U.S., Britain, and several other nations introduced an international agreement to ensure the security of AI systems, emphasizing the importance of designing AI with inherent security measures.

While Europe has made strides in AI regulation, the U.S. Congress faces polarization, hindering significant progress. Nevertheless, the Biden administration has taken steps to address AI risks through executive orders, prioritizing consumer protection, labor rights, and national security.

Negotiating the resolution took nearly four months, with extensive engagement and discussions with various countries, including Russia and China, both of which are exploring AI’s potential applications. Recent reports of hackers from these nations utilizing AI tools have raised concerns, prompting China to refute accusations while Russia remained silent.

The resolution signifies a pivotal milestone in global AI governance, providing a foundational framework to guide future developments and applications, despite ongoing challenges and differing perspectives among nations.