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Opening of the First Meeting of the Committee on Artificial Intelligence

Rome 4 April 2022
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As delivered by Bjørn Berge, Deputy Secretary General of the Council of Europe

 

Members of the Committee on Artificial Intelligence,

Ladies and gentlemen,

 

It is a great pleasure to be here for the formal opening of this Committee’s – of the CAI’s - first meeting.

And I want to thank each one of you who have agreed to devote your time and expertise to the task that lies ahead.

You are needed, and you are appreciated.

To help us elaborate a legal instrument on the design, development and application of Artificial Intelligence –

That is based on the Council of Europe’s standards on human rights, democracy and the rule of law –

Well, it is no doubt a huge challenge.

Ultimately, it could result in a legally binding convention that will shape and improve people’s interaction with AI as it expands its reach further and further in the years ahead.

I believe we all agree that national initiatives, ethical standards and non-binding guidance are simply not enough:

Not in such a competitive, cross-border, commercial environment.

Instead, we must create a level playing field for both AI developers and AI users:

With standards that ensure fairness, equality and dignity for all.

To be clear, the aim here is to regulate as much as necessary, not as much as possible.

AI is still an emerging technology, with much to offer the world:

In business, science, industry and so on.

So, it will be important that this instrument neither over-regulates, nor stifles innovation.

This is what I believe our member states want.

A good way forward will be to take a prudent, fact-based approach that focuses on general common principles and specific norms within the boundaries of our mandate.

My good colleagues in the Secretariat will use this first meeting to explain to you the work that has already been done on what such an instrument might include.

This outline is based on the Ad Hoc Committee on Artificial Intelligence – CAHAI – recommendations to our Committee of Ministers –

And also on the decisions that were taken at the Hamburg Ministerial Session last year.

But the main task that falls to you, is to try to flesh out a final, legal instrument that all our governments could agree to.

You are here because of your expertise in this field.

And we have been clear from the outset about the importance of this exercise being expert driven.

We need specialists in the field of AI, as well as businesses and civil society to contribute with their thoughts and views.

So that the proposals are as relevant, efficient and effective as they possibly can be:

So that the right balance is struck.

The role of other international organisations is highly relevant too.

UNESCO has adopted a recommendation on the Ethics of Artificial Intelligence.

The OECD has also adopted a set of important recommendations.

And the EU Commission developed a White Paper, and then proposed a Digital Markets Act and a Digital Services Act.

We do not work in a vacuum.

Therefore, we must ensure coordination, so that our work is complementary and not overlapping.

This is also part of the task that you now take on.

Dear friends, time is of the essence.

Not only because of the exceptional pace of technological change.

But because our aim is to take a decision at our May Ministerial in Turin on 20 May on what should be the final aim of this work.

Hopefully a new convention, but this we need a decision on.

The CAI’s mandate is on the other hand clear: to negotiate a final text by autumn next year.

I can only wish you the best of luck.

And I look forward to following your progress closely.

Thank you for your attention.