Q1/2019 - Council of Europe

Helsinki, 26 to 27 February 2019

Conference "Governing the Game Changer – Impacts of artificial intelligence development on human rights, democracy and the rule of law"

On 26 and 27 February 2019, the Council of Europe held a high-level conference on artificial intelligence in Helsinki under the title “Governing the Game Changer – Impacts of artificial intelligence development on human rights, democracy and the rule of law”.

The conference was opened by the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Thorbjørn Jagland, Finland’s Foreign Minister, Timo Soini, und France’s Minister of Justice, Nicole Belloubet. The speakers included the Finish Minister of Justice, Antti Häkkänen, the President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Liliane Maury Pasquier, and the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Dunja Mijatović. The conference was attended by 300 experts from more than 50 countries.

The presentations and discussions were marked by the widespread uncertainty as to how modern society should react to the challenges of artificial intelligence, which still remain unclear. All parties involved agree that, on the one hand, artificial intelligence offers enormous potential for solving global and local problems of mankind, but that, on the other hand, it goes along with incalculable risks and that the use of artificial intelligence must therefore be subjected to the rule of law and ethical guidelines. The last link of each “chain of command” must be a human being who can be held responsible in the event of damage. The principle of equality in a democratic constitutional state must not be undermined by non-transparent algorithms. It is essential to create greater public awareness of the opportunities and risks of artificial intelligence. Democratically legitimised supervisory bodies, protective mechanisms to prevent the violation of human rights by AI and observatories must be established that can critically monitor future developments and function as early warning systems (monitoring).

The Council of Europe was requested to develop specific recommendations for individual sectors in an open and transparent multistakeholder process and to adopt a code of conduct. The conference conclusions list twelve guidelines that shall provide orientation to governments and non-state players for the development and application of AI.[1]

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  1. [1] Concluding document of the Council of Europe conference in Helsinki on artificial intelligence on 27 February 2019: “Technological advancement can enhance human development and contribute to creating optimal conditions for the exercise of human rights. At the same time, there are broader implications from its use, and possible misuse, for the core values of democratic societies, including equality and fairness. The following guidance for the way forward to ensure that AI development occurs safely and for the benefit of all is inspired by the conference’s open, inclusive, inter-disciplinary and multi-stakeholder debate: 1. AI impacts, positively and negatively, on the exercise of human rights, the functioning of democratic societies, and the rule of law. It requires timely and thoughtful policy responses and must be placed at the top of governments’ political agendas; 2. AI holds significant potential for economic growth and innovation. These goals are essentially rooted in the shared values of democratic societies. The economic benefits deriving from AI cannot be realised without duly respecting these values; 3. AI affects all aspects of human life globally and transversally. All states and all stakeholder groups are therefore required to coordinate efforts and, inter alia, share information and good practices, and proactively develop synergies; 4. AI should be developed in a human-centric manner to produce benefits for individuals and for societies. A transparent and accountable assessment of the appropriateness of its application in a specific context, its benefits and risks, should be incorporated throughout the life-cycle of development; 5. It is important to develop a clearer understanding of AI and its impacts on human rights, democracy and the rule of law. This requires investment in inter-disciplinary and independent research into its direct and indirect effects on individuals and societies in concrete contexts; 6. Effective supervisory mechanisms and democratic oversight structures regarding the design, development and deployment of AI must be in place; 7. Functioning democratic processes require an independently informed public, and the encouragement of open and inclusive debates. Public awareness of the potential risks and benefits of AI must be enhanced and necessary new competencies and skills developed. Due public trust in the information environment and AI applications must be fostered; 8. Human rights are the core value of democratic societies, their protection and promotion requires active engagement from all actors, paying particular attention to the needs of vulnerable groups who may face marginalisation. Effective and legitimate mechanisms to prevent human rights violations and thwart discrimination, inequality and bias are necessary; 9. The design, development and deployment of AI tools must be subject to risk assessment in line with applicable principles. All automated processes should be designed to make them scrutinisable to a human reviewer. Effective remedies must be in place within public and private remits in all cases where human rights violations are alleged. Algorithmic transparency is crucial for building trust and ensuring due rights protection; 10. Equality before the law should not be compromised by algorithmic calculation. AI tools can support trained judges, while the content and contours of the laws and the legal systems of democratic societies must remain authoritatively governed by humans; 11. Existing landmark international instruments, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, are applicable irrespective of contextual changes brought about by AI and must be complied with to ensure that technological progress occurs in line with the principles of human rights, democracy and the rule of law. Ethical guidelines and self-regulation constitute additional tools to promote these values; 12. All relevant stakeholders should engage in in-depth exploration and research into the impacts of AI on human rights, democracy and the rule of law. The Council of Europe, in a multi-stakeholder approach, should continue to develop sector-specific recommendations, guidelines and codes of conduct to promote human rights and the viability of democratic institutions and processes. It should monitor the impact of AI on the collective foundations of democratic societies, continue to identify possible gaps in applicability and enforceability of existing regulatory frameworks, and on this basis, assess the need for further measures to ensure human rights compliant development, design and deployment of AI.”, see: Governing the Game Changer – Impacts of artificial intelligence development on human rights, democracy and the rule of law, Council of Europe Conference, Helsinki, 26-27 February 2019, https://www.coe.int/en/web/portal/-/artificial-intelligence-helsinki-conference-conclusions