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29 Jan 2024

Excluding the private sector from Council of Europe AI Convention poses major risks to human rights protection

The Council of Europe’s Committee on Artificial Intelligence (CAI) is currently negotiating a new Framework Convention on AI, human rights, democracy, and the rule of law. With only one round of negotiations remaining before the Convention’s adoption, there is a major risk of the private sector being excluded from the scope of the Convention. To prevent major gaps in human rights protection, ENNHRI recommends the inclusion of private actors in the Convention.

The risk and impact of private sector exclusion

Based on the latest publicly available draft of the Convention and ENNHRI’s engagement in the negotiation process as an official observer to CAI, there is a clear risk that the private sector will be excluded from the scope of the Convention. With many AI systems developed and deployed by the private sector, its exclusion from the Convention would leave a huge gap in human rights protection.

ENNHRI recalls in its updated common position on the Convention that the private sector is a central actor in the field of AI. It has key impacts on human rights, democracy, and the rule of law. Because of this, ENNHRI recommends that the Convention includes private actors in its scope.

This is in line with the Committee of Ministers Terms of Reference to elaborate a ‘binding legal instrument of a transversal character’ and the adopted final recommendations by the Ad Hoc Committee on AI (CAHAI). These recommendations preceded the CAI and established the scope of the future Convention: a transversal, binding legal instrument applicable to AI systems applied “by all types of organisations, including public and private actors alike”.

One more CAI session is planned for 11-14 March 2024 before the Convention is set for finalisation. Its adoption is currently planned for early May. ENNHRI has observer status at CAI, where the network’s engagement is based on the updated common position.

ENNHRI’s engagement on AI

Due to its impact on human rights, AI is a topic of increasing importance and a  strategic priority for ENNHRI in 2024. Currently, there are two major processes taking place in Europe that aim to regulate AI. These are the Council of Europe’s CAI negotiations on a Framework Convention on AI, human rights, democracy and rule of law and the European Union’s AI Act. The final text of the AI is expected soon.

For more information on ENNHRI’s AI-related work, contact Sophie Hale, Human Rights Officer (Sophie.hale@ennhri.org).

Read ENNHRI’s latest common position on the Convention.

Discover more on ENNHRI’s work on AI on the dedicated topic page.