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PACE welcomes draft convention on AI and human rights – but regrets it will not fully cover the private sector

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) has warmly welcomed the finalisation of the draft Framework Convention on Artificial Intelligence, Human Rights, Democracy and the Rule of Law which has been drawn up within the Council of Europe – but regretted that it “does not cover to an equal extent public and private actors”.

Under the procedure for the drafting of a Council of Europe treaty, the Assembly must give its opinion before it is adopted by the organisation’s executive body, the Committee of Ministers. It will be the first ever international treaty on AI, open to all states worldwide, on which ratifying states should base their national laws.

Unanimously approving its opinion today, based on a report by Thórhildur Sunna Ævarsdóttir (Iceland SOC), the Assembly said: “Many AI systems are developed and deployed by private entities, and introducing a differentiated approach for the private sector creates a significant loophole.”

It strongly called on all Council of Europe member states, when ratifying the convention, to opt to fully apply its provisions to the activities of private actors – while hoping that a dynamic interpretation of the convention’s provisions by the Conference of the Parties, its supervisory mechanism, would “foster advances over time, through reporting requirements and peer pressure”.

The Assembly proposed several amendments to the draft convention. Restrictions on its application to AI activities necessary to protect “national security or national defence interests” should be possible only if those activities are in line with international human rights law. States should also put in place limitations, or even bans, on certain uses of AI deemed incompatible with human rights. The parliamentarians also proposed to insert a specific provision on health and the environment.

The convention – which is due to be adopted by the Committee of Ministers before being opened for signature and ratification – has been negotiated by representatives of Council of Europe member states, the EU and non-European states such as the US, Japan, Canada, Mexico, Israel, Argentina, Australia, Costa Rica, Peru and Uruguay.