High-level Conference "Governing the Game Changer - Impacts of artificial intelligence development on Human Rights, Democracy and the Rule of Law"


26-27 February 2019, Helsinki, Finland


Our goal during these two days has been to take a critical look at the potential of AI technologies, to distinguish seeming advantages from real ones, and context-specific risks from broader side effects of technological progress.


I am confident that we have succeeded in this task and have gained a clearer and more common vision on these points.


We all agree that technological progress should not undermine the foundations of our democratic societies.


If designed and used responsibly, AI technologies can protect and promote human rights, democracy and the rule of law.


At the same time, if used irresponsibly or with criminal intent AI can jeopardise these values and thus compromise member States’ fundamental obligations under the European Convention and other binding instruments.


The Council of Europe is already serving as a platform for multi-stakeholder cooperation. Through our Parliamentary Assembly, our inter-governmental committees, our academic experts, our youth work, and through our cooperation with civil society and businesses. Moreover, we are mainstreaming AI policy in all thematic areas of our work.

AI, given its unprecedented role as a game changer, will be a priority line of work for the Council of Europe in the coming years. We want to ensure that the impacts of the digital transformation processes that we are undergoing are duly explored, that mechanisms for effective democratic oversight are in place, and that direct and indirect human rights violations are prevented and mitigated. We will be helping our member states to gradually, step by step, map the way towards fulfilment of their human rights, democracy and rule of law commitments in the age of AI.


We have discussed today and yesterday whether we need stronger guidance on how to design, develop and deploy AI tools in compliance with human rights and the rule of law. Whether ethical frameworks are enough or whether as we heard from the UN Special Rapporteur David Kaye and representatives of industry we need binding rules.


As we heard during the conference, ethics can translate human rights in daily guidance including in the context of emerging technologies. In the field of Bioethics, this has led to the Convention on Human Rights and Biomedicine in 1997 and its Protocol banning human cloning - a prime example of a red line regarding a technological development!


To ensure respect for human rights and core values, we need oversight mechanisms with strong mandates and enforcement capacities. Robust risk assessment processes must lead to the effective implementation of precautionary measures, if citizens are to trust that expressed commitments will be upheld. These are big challenges and we need to continue close international collaboration and sharing of knowledge, understanding and practices to meet them.


So how will the Council of Europe take this forward?


First, we will carefully examine existing regulatory frameworks and assess where gaps exist.


Second, we will continue to develop sector-specific recommendations and other non-legislative measures (such as recommendations guidelines, professional codes of conduct).


Third, we will explore the feasibility of a legal instrument that sets a general framework for the development, design and deployment of AI in conformity with our standards. All of this we will do in a strategic, transversal, multi-stakeholder approach .


For example, we look forward to further discussing with our partners how we can provide guidance on issues such as facial recognition and self-driving cars.


The conclusions from this conference will guide the Council of Europe’s Ministerial meeting here in Helsinki in May - celebrating our 70th Anniversary. I also encourage you all to use them proactively within your respective organisations and stakeholder groups.


In conclusion, let me thank excellent speakers, scene-setters, panellists, moderators, interpreters and all of you for your fantastic insight and indispensable, human intelligence! Finally, I want to thank our generous Finnish hosts and my own for the organisation of this event!

 Director General 
Christos Giakoumopoulos

Mandate   Organigramme


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