Artificial intelligence (AI) now permeates almost all parts of our lives, including ones as fundamental as policing, migration management, and access to jobs and housing. While AI brings opportunities, it also poses serious potential risks for human rights, rule of law and democracy. AI is a key area of joint work for European NHRIs and a strategic priority for ENNHRI.
How NHRIs promote and protect rights in this area
Using their mandates, NHRIs can address the human rights impacts of AI in various ways. This includes dealing with complaints, educating and raising awareness on its human rights implications, conducting investigations, and pursuing redress for violations caused by AI.
NHRIs are also contributing to ongoing legislative and policy processes at both national and regional levels. As AI’s rapid evolution continues, NHRIs are vital in ensuring human rights are strengthened, and not undermined, by digital technologies.
Shaping policy on AI
National and regional initiatives have been proposed, devised, and implemented in relation to human rights and AI. Several European countries have passed national laws on AI. Some European NHRIs already have experience of this, publishing statements and recommendations and advising government and parliaments on AI-related issues and policies.
At the European Union and Council of Europe levels, binding instruments have been put forward to regulate AI: the EU Proposal for a Regulation laying down harmonised rules on AI (the EU AI Act) and the Council of Europe’s Convention on AI, human rights, democracy and rule of law. These standards have the potential to put Europe at the forefront of AI regulation.
NHRIs are making vital contributions to these ongoing processes. Through ENNHRI, NHRIs collaborated to develop a recommendation on the European Commission’s White Paper on Artificial Intelligence, a submission on the Council of Europe draft Convention and a common position on the EU AI Act with recommendations. NHRIs also participate in the Council of Europe’s Committee on AI (CAI), where ENNHRI enjoys observer status. In the future, there is potential for NHRIs to provide national oversight and assess implementation of the new standards, as set out in a joint statement with Equinet.
NHRI Academy 2022
The NHRI Academy 2022 was dedicated to AI. Over the course of a week, over 20 NHRIs representatives learnt more on assessing AI’s impact on human rights, using their mandates to tackle AI-related human rights issues, and opportunities for AI to also promote and protect human rights.
NHRI Academy 2022: Artificial Intelligence and Human Rights
Artificial intelligence working group
Within the Group, NHRIs exchange knowledge and good practices and strengthen expertise on AI and human rights at national and regional levels. The Working Group also leads the response to regional legislative proposals and frameworks on AI regulation. In particular, it makes use of ENNHRI’s observer status before the CAI Committee. The Group also liaises with other partners, such as civil society organisations and networks engaging on the topic.
Nele Roekens (UNIA/Interfederal Centre for Equal Opportunities, Belgium); Quirine Eijkman (Netherlands Institute for Human Rights)