Policy Lab AI & Fundamental Rights

Nicolas Zahn • September 2021

Policy Lab

At a recent panel discussion, the importance of concrete projects like our Digital Trust Label was highlighted to operationalise principles for digital societies.

Towards an international accord

From 7-9 September, the Club de Madrid and the Boston Global Forum organised a Policy Lab on Fundamental Rights in AI & Digital Societies. The event brought together leading figures from politics and academia to discuss various aspects of this topic and exchange experiences.

SDI President Doris Leuthard participated in a panel discussion on the second day with Danilo Türk (former President of Slovenia), Nazli Choucri (MIT), Gabriela Ramos (UNESCO), Jutta Treviranus (OCAD University) and Carlos Santiso (Development Bank of Latin America).

The session was moderated by Club de Madrid Senior Policy & Programme Development Advisor, Véronique Choquette and kicked off with an input statement from Cameron Kerry (US Department of Commerce), outlining the current frameworks and agreements for an AI International Accord.

Principles matter but practice matters more

Coming from different backgrounds and working in different countries, the panelists each gave a brief account of how AI is currently being used in their context and what is being done to minimise risks. While panelists agreed that fundamental rights are equally applicable to the digital world, they also maintained that we need to think about how we could use the potential of digital technologies such as artificial intelligence in the private but also the public sector.

In particular UNESCO is working on a framework that aims to implement ethics in artificial intelligence. The goal is to keep existing rights operational in the digital world. While the principles are relatively clear and the narratives are being developed, those principles need to be operationalised. To this end, an ethical impact assessment among other tools is being developed and the framework will be discussed for adoption at a global conference in November 2021.

Panelists also discussed that dominating narratives around AI are making policymaking harder. Artificial intelligence is not the world-dominating robot that has come to occupy our minds, like the Terminator. Rather, systems of artificial intelligence are hidden away from our eyes but already today involved in decision making, with sometimes serious consequences. Hence, there is also a need for capacity-building for policymakers and governments but also the economy – particularly SMEs – as well as citizens.

To this end, Doris Leuthard briefly presented the SDI, the reasoning behind our Foundation, as well as our vision and mission. In addition, our Digital Trust Label project was presented as one possible tool to operationalise ethical principles and educate policymakers, companies and citizens. The project was met with support from other panelists. It will be launch towards the end of this year. If you’d like to learn more about the Digital Trust Label, please visit our project website.