Someone holding a crystal ball-like structure in their hand with AI written inside
21 Dec 2023

Ensuring a human rights based-approach to artificial intelligence: NHRIs publish updated common position on Council of Europe draft Convention

The Council of Europe’s draft Convention on Artificial Intelligence (AI), Human Rights, Democracy, and the Rule of Law marks a milestone. Alongside the EU’s upcoming AI Act, it will set out the first regional human rights standards on AI. In its new common position, ENNHRI emphasises the need for effective human rights protection in the scope of the Convention, including for the public and private sectors, and limitations on national security. Furthermore, it emphasises the importance of strong accountability in future implementation of the Convention at national and regional level. The submission is made within the context of ENNHRI’s observer status at the Council of Europe Committee on Artificial Intelligence (CAI), which is developing the AI Convention.

Against the backdrop of the profound and dynamic impact of AI on societies, environments, and human lives, ENNHRI welcomes the development of this binding convention on AI. In its updated common position, ENNHRI underscores the need for a human rights-based approach to the use of AI. As all human rights are affected by AI, National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) underline that the Convention must be broad enough to protect against individual, collective, and societal risks.

Building on their previous submission on the draft Convention, NHRIs urge a consistent reference to internationally established rights, such as the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), in the AI Convention to avoid potential dilution of rights as mere principles. The updated common position stresses the importance of an effective remedy, encompassing the right to lodge complaints, human review, notification, and meaningful explanation in cases of AI-related impacts. Furthermore, ENNHRI highlights the necessity of a broad scope of application, inclusion of the private sector, and limitations on national security to align with international human rights obligations.

ENNHRI also affirms the need to have independent oversight mechanisms at national and Council of Europe levels to monitor compliance with the Convention and prohibit practices posing an unacceptable risk. These mechanisms should possess the necessary powers and formal and functional independence, and should cooperate effectively with existing national human rights structures, including NHRIs.

Beyond this, ENNHRI calls for clear criteria and specific prohibitions on AI applications, as well as periodic reviews. Moreover, it is crucial to include transparency requirements, such as a public registry for AI systems and reporting obligations for potential human rights breaches. Finally, ENNHRI highlights the importance of multi-stakeholder participation and public consultation. This is crucial to ensure that the massive impact of digital technologies on individuals and societies at large is comprehensively monitored, debated, and addressed.

ENNHRI will continue to engage with the Council of Europe on the basis of this common position. As a next step, it will participate in the plenary meeting of the Committee on Artificial Intelligence (CAI) on 23 January 2024.

Read the new common position.

Learn more about ENNHRI’s work on artificial intelligence.