UN High Commissioner Urges Global Collaboration for Human Rights-Centric Governance of Generative AI

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Mr. Volker Türk, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mr. Volker Türk, has called for vigilant and human rights-centric governance of artificial intelligence (AI), particularly focusing on the transformative potential and inherent risks associated with generative AI.

Volker made this call while addressing a diverse audience, which included world leaders, at the Generative Artificial Intelligence and Human Rights Summit, an event convened to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, held at the UN Headquarters in Geneva.

He highlighted the dual nature of generative AI, stating that while it has the potential to positively transform lives and address complex challenges, it also brings significant risks that may compromise human dignity and rights. He therefore stressed the urgent need for integrating human rights into the development of AI technologies, calling for collaboration between governments and corporations to establish robust frameworks and guidelines to manage these risks effectively.

He said: “The emergence of generative AI presents a paradox of progress. On one hand, it could revolutionise the way we live, work, and solve some of our most complex challenges. On the other, it heightens profound risks that could undermine human dignity and rights. This makes it crucial to ensure that human rights are embedded at the core throughout the lifecycle of AI technologies, with a concerted effort by governments and corporations to establish effective risk management frameworks, and operational guardrails.”

Expressing concern over the capacity of digital technologies to reshape societies and influence global politics, Volker emphasized the need to stand against disinformation and manipulation, especially in the context of upcoming elections in 2024, where digital fakes and disinformation campaigns could play a role.

Underscoring the imperative need for governance of generative AI based on human rights, Volker referenced existing frameworks like the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Guidelines for Responsible Business Conduct. However, he noted that these frameworks alone might not be sufficient to address the challenges posed by AI, emphasizing the importance of legal, regulatory, and multilateral frameworks anchored in international human rights norms.

The UN High Commissioner pledged to continue drawing attention to the need for effective remedies for victims of AI-induced human rights abuse and urged technology companies to recognize their responsibility in contributing to systems of remedy. He further called for collective action, uniting states, corporations, civil society, and individuals in a shared mission to ensure that AI serves humanity’s best interests, fostering a world where technology advances universal human dignity and rights.