This article is part of a series in which OECD experts and thought leaders — from around the world and all parts of society — address the COVID-19 crisis, discussing and developing solutions now and for the future. Aiming to foster the fruitful exchange of expertise and perspectives across fields to help us rise to this critical challenge, opinions expressed do not necessarily represent the views of the OECD.
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Originally delivered as an intervention at the OECD Parliamentary Group on AI meeting, which took place on 2 December 2020.
The Parliamentary Assembly of the Mediterranean (PAM) has been working on the link between artificial intelligence and human rights since 2019. Acknowledging the importance of ethics in the AI debate is, indeed, of vital importance in the current scenario, given the impact that AI has on our everyday lives.
Along with the executive and the judiciary, legislators—being the highest expression of the state in connecting people and governments—share the responsibility to ensure the respect, protection and adherence to human rights and to the implementation of the state’s obligations.
Keeping this in mind, the Assembly reaffirms its commitment to address this issue in its report “PAM MPs for Human Rights”, presented at the 14th PAM Plenary Session in Athens on 20-21 February 2020. During the event, PAM also established a Task Force dedicated to analysing the potential benefits of AI as well as its anticipated threats to human rights. At the same time, it recommended its Member States to set regulatory and legal frameworks that would ensure that the new technologies conceived are not a threat to humankind.
Moreover, on 29 September 2020 PAM organised a webinar on Artificial Intelligence and Digital Transformation, following an invitation from the Observatory Tuttimedia. The event stressed the fundamental role of parliamentarians in promoting AI governance, setting regulatory and legal frameworks to ensure that AI development is human-centred, sustainable and respects human rights principles in line with national and international law.
Managing the COVID-19 pandemic has provided policymakers and researchers with perfect examples of both favorable and dangerous consequences of AI use in public affairs. In fact, on one hand it was clear how such advanced technologies were pivotal for containing the spread of the virus; while on the other, how they threatened citizen’s rights, especially considering the right to privacy. Indeed, AI for mass surveillance has already been applied in many countries, its use being justified by the need to oversee lockdowns and related national restrictions.
Find out more about the work of the OECD on artificial intelligence
The crisis, moreover, has accented the challenges of globalisation, and only through international co-operation it is possible to overcome them. PAM believes that parliamentarians can—and should—play a major role raising awareness of AI-related education within civil society. To generate widespread confidence and trust in this new technology, citizens need to be informed in a transparent way about every aspect of AI development and use. Clarity is undoubtedly a key aspect to fulfilling AI’s positive possibilities, and MPs—the link between governments and the population—are best positioned to ensure it.
From its side, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Mediterranean will continue contributing to, and ensuring that all measures are taken to achieve consensus on developing AI technology in an ethical and responsible way—and in full respect of fundamental rights and freedoms.
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