Insights International Treaty on AI update


The Council of Europe (“CoE”), established in 1949, encourages countries to sign legally binding international agreements and has a role in enforcing them. These include the European Convention on Human Rights which is overseen by the CoE’s European Court of Human Rights. The CoE has 46 member States, 27 of which are members of the EU. Certain other states like Canada, Japan and the US engage with the CoE as “observers.”

In 2019, the CoE began work on a “Framework Convention on Artificial Intelligence, Human Rights, Democracy and the Rule of Law” and, in December 2023, published a revised draft. States that choose to sign the Convention would commit to maintaining appropriate laws or other measures relating to AI systems to give effect to the provisions of the Convention. These include ensuring the integrity, independence and effectiveness of democratic institutions, participation in democratic processes and fair access to public debate, responsibility and accountability for violations of human rights, respect for equality and prohibitions on discrimination, adequate transparency and oversight of AI and that impacted persons are made aware they are interacting with AI. Additional obligations under discussion include protecting individuals from undue influence or manipulation, measures to enable the detection and transparency of content generated by AI, and the protection of data, the environment and whistleblowers. States would have to commit to establishing mechanisms to oversee compliance and provide remedies for harms caused by AI.

The scope of the Convention is still under discussion and, according to reports, the US and the UK do not want it to apply to private sector entities; rather it should apply only to public sector bodies with the possibility for signatory countries to opt in private companies. The reports also indicate that several other provisions have now been watered down.

The CoE is likely to finalise the Convention soon. Non-CoE States may choose to become a party to the Convention, but it will only come into force after five signatories, including at least three CoE States, have expressed their commitment to be bound by it.

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