Joint Statement on the Ad Hoc Committee on Artificial Intelligence (CAHAI) in the Council of Europe

Yesterday, the Council of Europe’s Ad Hoc Committee on Artificial Intelligence (CAHAI) held its last session. In a joint statement with the Conference of International NGOs of the Council of Europe, Global Partners Digital, and Homo Digitalis, we express our concerns over the outcome of the process, and we call upon the Council of Europe to ensure that the procedure leading to a legal framework on AI be inclusive and open to representatives of civil society.

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We call upon the Council of Europe to ensure that the follow-up process – the Ministerial negotiations to actually draft a legal framework on AI – take into full consideration the need to ensure strong and effective human rights protections, and be designed in an open and inclusive way and allows for the participation of civil society representatives.

The CAHAI was established in 2019 and tasked with examining the feasibility and possible elements of a legal framework for the development, design and application of Artificial Intelligence (AI), based on Council of Europe’s standards on human rights, democracy and the rule of law. At the final stage of the process, and after two years of deliberations and consultations, we deeply regret many Member States’ clear intention to narrow the scope of any future legal framework and weaken the potential safeguards that would protect individuals harmed by AI. We are disappointed by their failure to use this unique opportunity to send a strong signal that the use of AI systems must always be in line with human rights, democracy, and the rule of law – the very foundations which the Council of Europe is built upon.

At the same time, we praise the efforts of the Council of Europe that have enabled some civil society organisations to participate meaningfully in the work of CAHAI. Both as representatives of individuals and groups affected by AI – in particular of overly affected and marginalized groups – and as a source of experience and expertise on how human rights and standards of democracy and the rule of law apply to the development, design and application of AI, it is imperative that the important contribution of civil society be fully recognised and benefitted from. Thus, civil society organisations must continue to be able to participate – formally and informally – in the upcoming process established to actually draft a legal framework on AI through Ministerial negotiations, mirroring the Council of Europe’s commitment to include civil society as essential contributors to its activities.

Therefore, we will be urging the Council of Europe, the Secretary General and the Committee of Ministers to reflect this commitment to openness and inclusiveness in the structure supporting the negotiations of a legally binding instrument on AI starting in 2022, and to ensure that civil society organisations, in particular vulnerable groups, can both meaningfully participate in and be consulted during the negotiating process.

Signatories:

AlgorithmWatch

Conference of International NGOs of the Council of Europe

Global Partners Digital

Homo Digitalis