Client Alert 14 Mar. 2024

Recent UN Visit to Silicon Valley Draws Attention to International AI Governance

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UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk recently visited San Francisco and the Silicon Valley, bringing to the attention of high-level technology leaders the crucial need for companies to incorporate human rights concerns into technological innovation, particularly in the field of artificial intelligence (AI).

His visit included roundtable discussions at Berkeley Law and Stanford Law, as well as a presentation at the offices of the European Union. Turk highlighted the importance of collaboration between governments, civil society, and international bodies in upholding democracy and human rights in the AI era.

His engagement with private, public, and academic stakeholders underscored the UN’s commitment to ensuring that digital progress does not outpace the values that underpin human dignity and democracy. This focus on responsible innovation resonates with the guiding principles that led to the creation of the new UN AI Advisory Body at the end of last year.

Creation and Development of the AI Advisory Body

The AI Advisory Body is a landmark initiative launched by UN Secretary-General António Guterres after a global search for technology experts resulted in over 1,800 nominations from 128 countries around the world. From this pool, 39 distinguished experts in various relevant technology, government, and academic disciplines were selected to form the advisory body.

In his address, Secretary-General Guterres acknowledged the dual-edged nature of AI, highlighting its capacity to both significantly advance or potentially undermine the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. Guterres outlined AI’s potential in revolutionizing crisis management, public health, and education, positioning it as a pivotal tool to augment the work of governments, civil societies and the UN itself.

With respect to developing economies, he emphasized that AI offers the possibility of leapfrogging outdated technologies and bringing services directly to people who need them most. However, Guterres also cautioned against the dangers AI presents if it is not developed ethically and regulated comprehensively, such as the propagation of misinformation, reinforcement of bias, violation of privacy, and broader threats to human rights. In addition, highlighting the importance of inclusivity in AI development, Guterres called for a collaborative effort to address global disparities in AI development and deployment.

Since its launch, the AI Advisory Body swiftly embarked on initial consultations, resulting in an interim report on AI governance published in December of 2023.

Key Principles Highlighted in the Interim Report

The interim report proposed guiding principles for an effective global framework:

  1. Inclusive governance: AI should ensure universal benefit, providing equitable access and global participation.

  2. Public interest: AI should be governed with the public interest in mind, aligning with UN guiding principles on human rights and Sustainable Development Goals.

  3. Data governance: AI governance should progress in conjunction with data governance, emphasizing the importance of promoting public data commons.

  4. Universal collaboration: AI governance needs inclusive multi-stakeholder collaboration, reflecting the global impact of AI.

  5. International commitments: AI governance should adhere to UN law and other international agreements, ensuring a stable and consistent global approach.

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

  1. AI impact assessment: Regular evaluations of AI’s trajectory and its implications are vital for informed technology policy-making.

  2. Interoperability and norms: Ensuring that AI development aligns with international norms is crucial for consistent governance.

  3. Safety and risk management: Harmonizing common safety and risk management standards is essential for global AI regulation.

  4. International multi-stakeholder cooperation: Encouraging international cooperation in AI model training and testing is key to equitable AI advancement.

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

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

  7. Concrete accountability measures: Incentivizing compliance with universal AI norms is important to prevent exploitations from malicious actors.

Looking ahead, the AI Advisory Body is expected to publish a more comprehensive AI governance report in the middle of this year. Specifically, the report will play a pivotal role in guiding conversations at the Summit of the Future in September of 2024.

The global conference will draw the attendance of representatives of various industry focus around the world.

Special thanks to Zhenwei Gao, an undergraduate student from Stanford University and Curtis winter intern, for her substantial contribution to this client alert.

About Curtis

Curtis, Mallet-Prevost, Colt & Mosle LLP is a leading international law firm. Headquartered in New York, Curtis has 19 offices in the United States, Latin America, Europe, the Middle East and Asia. Curtis represents a wide range of clients, including multinational corporations and financial institutions, governments and state-owned companies, money managers, sovereign wealth funds, family-owned businesses, individuals and entrepreneurs.

For more information about Curtis, please visit

Attorney advertising. The material contained in this Client Alert is only a general review of the subjects covered and does not constitute legal advice. No legal or business decision should be based on its contents.

Please feel free to contact any of the persons listed if you have any questions on this important development.

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