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UN General Assembly adopts first AI resolution

March 22, 2024

Proposed by the US and co-sponsored by 123 other countries including China, the UN General Assembly's resolution on artificial intelligence is meant to be an "important first step."

People walk past an advertising placard in Davos, Switzerland, at the World Economic Forum declaring that "the future is AI," January 16, 2024.
Like businesses, politicians are trying to get to grips with the advent of AI and the changes it might bringImage: DW

The United Nations General Assembly unanimously adopted the first global resolution on artificial intelligence on Thursday, to encourage its members to ensure AI technology is "safe, secure and trustworthy."

"Today, all 193 members of the United Nations General Assembly have spoken in one voice, and together, chosen to govern artificial intelligence rather than let it govern us," US Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield said. 

"It's just the first step. I'm not overplaying it, but it's an important first step," she said.

The resolution, proposed by the US and co-sponsored by China and 122 other countries, is a non-binding one. However, the unanimous vote in its favor is a rarity, especially with the backdrop of ongoing geopolitical volatility. 

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The resolution comes when governments across the globe are working on initiatives to shape and regulate AI's developments amid fears that it could magnify frauds, lead to job losses and even disrupt democratic processes.

"The improper or malicious design, development, deployment and use of artificial intelligence systems ... pose risks that could ... undercut the protection, promotion and enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms," the measure says.

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In November of 2023, the US, Britain and over a dozen other countries inked a non-binding international agreement on how to keep artificial intelligence safe by design so it isn't misused by rogue actors. This agreement was largely from a cybersecurity point of view.

The European Union, on March 13, approved the first set of comprehensive AI rules which are likely to take effect by May or June. Meanwhile countries like the US and China are currently drafting guidelines. 

Other countries like India and Japan have also made notable efforts and released AI guidelines. 

Very few of these efforts carry any teeth or regulatory and legal power, however. 

mk/msh (AP, Reuters)