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International: CoE adopts first international Convention on AI

On May 17, 2024, the Council of Europe (CoE) announced that it adopted the Framework Convention on Artificial Intelligence and Human Rights, Democracy and the Rule of Law (the Convention). Notably, the CoE stated that this is the first international legally binding treaty for the use of artificial intelligence (AI) systems. 

What are the highlights of the Convention?

Importantly, the Convention adopts a risk-based approach to the design, development, use, and decommissioning of AI systems, and sets out a legal framework that covers the entire lifecycle of AI systems, addressing the risks they may pose while promoting responsible innovation.

Scope

The Convention has a broad scope to encompass the activities within the lifecycle of AI systems that have the potential to interfere with human rights, democracy, and the rule of law. The Convention would oblige the parties to the Convention to ensure compliance when such activities are undertaken by public authorities as well as private actors acting on their behalf. This would include an obligation to comply regarding activities for which public authorities delegate their responsibilities to private actors or direct them to act, such as activities by private actors operating pursuant to a contract with a public authority or other private provision of public services, as well as public procurement and contracting.

Further, the parties may opt to be directly obliged by the relevant Convention provisions or, as an alternative, take other measures to comply with the Convention's provisions while respecting their international obligations regarding human rights, democracy, and the rule of law. This approach is necessary because of the differences in legal systems around the world.

Requirements

The Convention, provides, among other things, the establishment of transparency and oversight requirements tailored to specific contexts and risks, including identifying content generated by AI systems. Parties will have to adopt measures to identify, assess, prevent, and mitigate possible risks and assess the need for a moratorium, a ban, or other appropriate measures concerning the uses of AI systems where their risks may be incompatible with human rights standards. Additionally, the Convention establishes a follow-up mechanism in the form of a Conference of the Parties. The Convention would also require the parties to establish an independent oversight mechanism to oversee compliance.

Next steps 

The Convention will be opened for signature in Vilnius, Lithuania, on September 5, 2024.

You can read the press release here and the explanatory report on the Convention here