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06 Apr 2023

How the Council of Europe’s Artificial Intelligence Convention can safeguard human rights 

Artificial intelligence (AI) is impacting on how people enjoy and exercise their human rights: strong binding standards are required to safeguard these. The Council of Europe’s AI Convention can set out these standards and a pathway to a human rights-based approach to AI. In a new joint statement, ENNHRI and Equinet outline how robust and independent oversight and enforcement mechanisms at national and Council of Europe levels are integral to the Convention’s success. 

Technology has entered into nearly every part of daily life. At the same time, the design, development and deployment of AI systems is throwing up questions in relation to privacy, equality and access to justice, and more. NHRIs, alongside equality bodies and ombuds institutions, already play a prominent role in the prevention, mitigation, and oversight of the human rights impacts of these systems. Yet more is needed. 

Creating a robust, human rights-based regulatory landscape for AI

The upcoming Convention is an unmissable opportunity to create an AI regulatory landscape with the protection of human rights, democracy and rule of law at its heart. To achieve this, ENNHRI and Equinet call for:  

  • Independent oversight and enforcement mechanisms at national and Council of Europe levels to ensure the effectiveness of the future Convention. 
  • These mechanisms – in the form of national supervisory authorities – to enjoy meaningful empowerment, adequate resourcing and be aligned with existing national and European oversight mechanisms. 
  • The roles and powers of future supervisory authorities be aligned with public human rights oversight bodies, such as NHRIs and National Equality Bodies, so as to avoid duplication, fragmentation, and inconsistencies. 
  • A cooperation framework between supervisory authorities, NHRIs and National Equality Bodies, including safeguards requiring access to information and the duty to inform and consult if human rights risks are identified. 
  • Multistakeholder participation with diverse relevant stakeholders involved in national and Council of Europe level oversight of the future AI Convention. 

The importance of national supervisory authorities was also highlighted in a previous ENNHRI submission to the Council of Europe’s Committee on Artificial Intelligence. 

A meeting of human rights minds 

These topics were on the agenda at a meeting convened by the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights on 30-31 March. NHRIs, equality bodies and ombuds institutions came together to discuss the challenges and promising practices linked to their work on AI.  

ENNHRI and NHRIs will continue cooperating with key partners such as Equinet and the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights on the topic of AI, a topic whose importance is only increasing. 

Read and download the joint statement from ENNHRI and Equinet. Read the Commissioner’s statement on the role of national human rights structures in addressing AI’s impacts on human rights.