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In brief

On 23 December 2023, the United Nations Advisory Body on Artificial Intelligence released an interim report, marking a step forward in the global discourse on Artificial Intelligence (AI) governance. This report, a collaborative effort of experts from government, the private sector, civil society, and academia, calls for a robust global framework to regulate AI. Its publication underscores the urgency and complexity of addressing AI’s rapidly evolving landscape.


Contents

  1. Key Highlights
  2. Principles and functions for a global AI governance framework
  3. Conclusion and future steps

Key Highlights

Global AI governance: A critical imperative: The report emphasizes the necessity of a global approach to AI governance, transcending national efforts like the EU’s AI Act or the US Executive Order on AI. Recognizing the UN’s unique position to lead this endeavor, the report suggests a framework that unites diverse international perspectives, ensuring that no region or sector is left behind.

Risks and opportunities in the AI landscape: The Advisory Body’s approach to AI risks is novel, categorizing them in relation to vulnerabilities that impact individuals, groups, society, the economy, and ecosystems. It underlines that AI’s benefits and risks are not evenly distributed, warning of a scenario where AI’s positive aspects are primarily accessible to wealthy societies, exacerbating global inequalities.

  • Opportunities: AI presents enormous opportunities for growth and innovation, especially in key sectors like healthcare and agriculture. However, the report highlights a stark contrast in the Global South’s capacity to leverage these benefits, citing limitations in resources and infrastructure. This disparity underscores the need for inclusive governance that enables all countries to harness AI’s potential.
  • Risks: The report uniquely frames AI risks, shifting focus from technical risks to broader vulnerabilities affecting society at large. These include the reinforcement of biases, the potential for increased surveillance, and challenges in regulatory frameworks keeping pace with AI’s advancement. The report also notes the geopolitical implications of AI, including data access and talent concentration, and their impact on global power dynamics.

Principles and functions for a global AI governance framework

The interim report does not advocate for a singular AI governance model but proposes underlying principles and functions essential for an effective global framework.

Guiding principles are: 

1. Inclusive governance: AI should be governed for the benefit of all, ensuring equitable access and participation globally.

2. Public interest: AI should be governed in the public interest, aligning with human rights and sustainable development goals.

3. Data governance alignment: AI governance should progress in tandem with data governance, emphasizing the importance of data commons.

4. Universal and networked collaboration: AI governance requires universal, adaptive multi-stakeholder collaboration, reflecting the global nature of AI.

5. Anchoring in international commitments: Governance should be rooted in UN law and other international agreements, ensuring a stable and consistent global approach.

The report outlines critical functions for a global AI governance regime, ranging from scientific assessment to international collaboration:

1. Assessment of AI’s future: Regular evaluations and consensus-building on AI’s trajectory are vital for informed policy-making.

2. Interoperability and norms alignment: Harmonizing AI development with international norms is crucial for consistent governance.

3. Standardization and risk management: Developing common safety and risk management frameworks is essential for global AI regulation.

4. Cross-border development and testing facilitation: Encouraging international cooperation in AI model training and testing is key to equitable AI advancement.

5. Data and talent collaboration: International collaboration on data access, talent development, and infrastructure is crucial for balanced AI growth.

6. Unified reporting and peer review: Establishing standard reporting and peer review mechanisms ensures transparency and accountability in AI governance.

Conclusion and future steps

The UN AI Advisory Body’s interim report is a clarion call for inclusive and forward-thinking global governance of AI. While it does not impose legal obligations, it represents a step towards establishing a harmonized and equitable AI governance structure. As AI continues to shape our world, this report provides a foundational blueprint for its responsible and ethical management.

For further information or assistance in navigating the complex landscape of AI regulation and governance, please contact our expert team.

Author

Anahita Thoms heads Baker McKenzie's International Trade Practice in Germany and is a member of our EMEA Steering Committee for Compliance & Investigations. Anahita is Global Lead Sustainability Partner for our Industrials, Manufacturing and Transportation Industry Group. She serves as an Advisory Board Member in profit and non-profit organizations, such as Atlantik-Brücke, and is an elected National Committee Member at UNICEF Germany. She has served for three consecutive terms as the ABA Co-chair of the Export Controls and Economic Sanctions Committee and as the ABA Vice-Chair of the International Human Rights Committee. Anahita has also been an Advisory Board Member (Beirätin) of the Sustainable Finance Advisory Council of the German Government.

Anahita has won various accolades for her work, including 100 Most Influential Women in German Business (manager magazin), Top Lawyer (Wirtschaftswoche), Winner of the Strive Awards in the category Sustainability, Pioneer in the area of sustainability (Juve), International Trade Lawyer of the Year (Germany) 2020 ILO Client Choice Awards, Young Global Leader of the World Economic Forum, Capital 40 under 40, International Trade Lawyer of the Year (New York) 2016 ILO Client Choice Awards. In 2023, Handelsblatt recognized her as one of Germany’s Dealmaker and “most sought after advisors of the country” in the field of sustainability.

Author

Eva-Maria Strobel is a partner in Baker McKenzie's Zurich office. She is a member in the Firm's global IPTech Practice Group, chairs the EMEA IPTech Practice Group and heads the Swiss IPTech team. Eva-Maria is admitted to the bars in Switzerland and Germany, and worked in the Firm's Frankfurt office prior to relocating to Zurich. Legal 500, Chambers, WIPR, Managing IP and WTR 1000 praise Eva-Maria as one of the leading trademark lawyers in Switzerland.

Author

Dr. Alexander Ehrle is a member of the Firm's International Trade Practice in Baker McKenzie's Berlin office. Alexander studied law at the Universities of Heidelberg, Montpellier (France), Mainz, Munich and New York (NYU) specializing in Public International and European Law. He worked as advisor and member of a delegation of a developing country at the United Nations before qualifying for the German bar. He spent his clerkship with the Higher Regional Court in Berlin, the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Berlin and Tokyo as well as an international law firm in Frankfurt and Milan. He wrote his doctoral dissertation on the structural changes of public international law and their conceptualization in academic discourse basing his research on the governance of areas beyond national jurisdiction. Alexander is admitted to practice in Germany and New York. 

Alexander co-chairs the Business & Human Rights Committee of the American Bar Association’s International Law Section and has been recognized as one of 40 under 40 lawyers worldwide for foreign investment control by the Global Competition Review.

Author

Kimberley Fischer is a member of the International Trade Practice in Baker McKenzie's Berlin office. She joined the Firm in 2022. Kimberley studied law at the Ruprecht Karls University of Heidelberg and the Universidad de Deusto (Spain), with a focus on public international law and human rights. Prior to joining the Firm, Kimberley completed her legal traineeship at the Higher Regional Court of Frankfurt am Main, the German Federal Foreign Office in Berlin and at an international law firm in Brussels and Frankfurt am Main. She also gained significant experience in public (international) law as a research assistant at the University of Heidelberg and at a reputable law firm.

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