Mark Coeckelbergh
Mark Coeckelbergh
AI Ethics Global Lead

UN General Assembly adopts resolution on artificial intelligence

The United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution advocating for trustworthy AI systems, offering a good basis for continued international policy on AI governance

On March 21, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution on the promotion of ‘safe, secure,
and trustworthy’ AI systems that will benefit sustainable development for all. It is the first
global resolution on artificial intelligence. The resolution text is non-binding but was backed
by more than 120 member states including China. It was adopted by consensus, having the
support of all 193 member states. The General Assembly calls for international guidelines to
address the risks and benefits of AI.


As expected, the US-led resolution text calls for safeguarding privacy, compliance with
human rights, and closing the digital divide: in a global context, it is important that
developing countries can share in the benefits offered by AI.


But the resolution also recognized AI systems’ potential to progress towards reaching the
Sustainable Development Goals. For example, countries can use AI systems to improve food
security, help forecast extreme weather, and model clean energy infrastructure. This is
important since progress toward the SDGs is lagging. There are still enormous problems
with poverty and equality between men and women, for instance. And too little has been
done to tackle climate change.


The global consensus on this resolution is seen as a good basis for further international
policy work in this area, at the UN and elsewhere. It acknowledges that further discussion is
needed on governance approaches.


In the meantime at home, Biden struggles with a polarised US Congress. The creation of AI
legislation is there in the early stages without a clear path for moving forward. In this
domain, Europe leads: earlier this month the European Parliament gave final approval
to the AI Act, the first comprehensive AI regulation in the world. The European Council is
expected to endorse the legislation by May. It will then take 24 months before it will be fully
applicable. China is also moving to draw up AI regulations, especially for generative AI
systems.

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