March 16, 2024


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US-led resolution seeks international AI policy as tool to end poverty and hunger: ‘urgent’ and ‘unique’ need

More than 50 members of the United Nations have joined the U.S. in pursuing a draft resolution to establish artificial intelligence (AI) safety guidelines. 

U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield on Thursday read a statement that discussed the draft resolution titled ‘Seizing the Opportunities of Safe, Secure, and Trustworthy Artificial Intelligence Systems for Sustainable Development,’ which would aim to ‘articulate a shared approach to AI systems.’ 

‘The resolution calls on Member States to promote safe, secure, and trustworthy AI systems to address the world’s greatest challenges, including those related to poverty elimination, global health, food security, climate, energy, and education,’ Thomas-Greenfield said in a prepared statement. 

‘We are resolved to bridge the artificial intelligence and other digital divides between and within countries through capacity building, increasing digital literacy, and other actions,’ she added. 

International consensus on AI policy has remained a central focus for major nations as public attention on the technology rose sharply in 2023. The U.K. hosted an international safety summit in Bletchley Park, where world leaders discussed their concerns and signed a declaration. 

Signatories to the Bletchley Declaration — which included the U.S., the U.K., China, Saudi Arabia and members of the European Union, among others — needed to establish their own safety commissions as well as commit to pursuing a shared policy for nations to follow. 

The European Commission last week opened its AI office, which the bloc believed would serve as a ‘global reference point’ for AI safety policy, along with the E.U. AI Act, which the commission touts as the world’s first comprehensive law on artificial intelligence. 

The U.S., for its part, established the U.S. Artificial Intelligence Safety Institute under the National Institute of Standards of Technology following the safety summit, looking to ‘facilitate the development of standards for safety, security, and testing of AI models,’ among other tasks.

In pursuit of international policy, U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan told The Associated Press that the U.S. turned to the General Assembly ‘to have a truly global conversation on how to manage the implications of the fast-advancing technology of AI.’

To that end, the U.S. negotiated with the full 193-member body of the United Nations about three months ago, receiving input from about 120 nations and working through several drafts. The resolution will receive formal consideration later this month.  

‘As AI technologies rapidly develop, there is urgent need and unique opportunities for Member States to meet this critical moment with collective action,’ Thomas-Greenfield argued. 

The U.S. has proposed that creating a shared policy would also align with the mission of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which is a U.N. plan of action that seeks to ‘strengthen universal peace in larger freedom.’ 

Chiefly, the agenda mandates that the member states do what they can ‘between now and 2030, to end poverty and hunger everywhere’ and combat inequalities between and within countries. The U.S. and the fellow members who have supported the new AI resolution therefore have argued that AI can help achieve that ambitious goal. 

The resolution would seek to establish AI systems as ‘human-centric, reliable, explainable, ethical, inclusive, privacy-preserving and responsible, with a sustainable development orientation, and in full respect, promotion and protection of human rights and international laws.’

Other nations supporting the U.S. resolution include Morocco, Peru, the United Arab Emirates, Dominican Republic, Australia, Romania, Israel, Canada, Finland, Greece and other members of the European Union. 

‘Today the EU joined @USUN and ~70 UN Member States to call for a UN General Assembly resolution on seizing the opportunities of safe, secure and trustworthy Artificial Intelligence systems for sustainable development,’ the European Mission to the United Nations wrote in a statement. ‘We urge all U.N. Member States to co-sponsor & support adoption.’

‘Safe, secure and trustworthy AI systems are essential to harnessing the full potential of this emerging technology,’ Australian Ambassador James Larsen wrote on the social media platform X. ‘Australia [is] proud to co-sponsor the first ever #UNGA resolution on Artificial Intelligence alongside 50 other U.N. member states.’

‘AI has tremendous potential to help humanity, but it must also be used responsibly,’ the United Arab Emirates Mission to the United Nations said, lauding the cooperation of member states to pursue the resolution. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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