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Artificial intelligence and human rights contribute to sustainable development

Ministry for Foreign Affairs
13.11.2020 10.38
News item

Concerns about the security of the internet and risks associated with emerging digital applications have increased in recent years. Misuse of artificial intelligence, for example through facial recognition technology or automated content moderation, may undermine the development of democracy and the rule of law and deteriorate the position of minorities, for example. The Freedom Online Coalition (FOC), an intergovernmental human rights organisation, explains the connection between artificial intelligence (AI) and human rights in its recently published statement.

On 5 November 2020, the international human rights organisation FOC launched a joint statement, drawn up under the lead of the Government of Canada, according to which the management, development and use of artificial intelligence systems should be in line with the international human rights obligations. Governments should not use AI systems for repressive and authoritarian purposes.

Johanna Sumuvuori, State Secretary to Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto, emphasised the potential of AI technologies in supporting the achievement of sustainable development goals when speaking in connection with the 2020 Internet Governance Forum on 5 November 2020: "According to international comparisons, Finland has succeeded well in utilising new digital technologies to increase well-being in society. We have also invested in the development of basic skills in artificial intelligence, both in Finland and internationally, by providing the free Elements of AI online course.”

Finland supports digital equality

The Freedom Online Coalition aims to promote an open and secure internet. Sumuvuori considers the Coalition’s work to be increasingly important in today's world where we must ensure that no one is left behind by digitalisation. It is important for Finland that human rights, especially the rights of women and children, are safeguarded on the internet as well. Finland will chair the Coalition, which comprises 32 members, next year. “Our chairmanship will particularly focus on issues related to equality and digitalisation, effects of artificial intelligence, and challenges related to authoritarian regimes,” Sumuvuori says. 

The FOC's statement concerning artificial intelligence and human rights emphasises the obligation of states to safeguard the realisation of human rights in their territory and the role of states in promoting transparency and accountability in the use of artificial intelligence by companies, organisations and other actors. Extensive national and international cooperation is needed in assessing and managing risks related to artificial intelligence, developing artificial intelligence, and formulating best practices related to the use of artificial intelligence. Both opportunities and risks related to these technologies must also be explored in AI training.

 “The chairmanship of the FOC will also support Finland's work in the other international processes promoting digital equality, in which we hold a leadership position. For example, Finland leads an Action Coalition on technology and innovation in the UN Women's five-year project Generation Equality,” State Secretary Sumuvuori says.


Janette Sorsimo, Unit for Human Rights Policy, Ministry for Foreign Affairs

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