April 10, 2024

UN Adopts First Global AI Resolution: What is It and What Does It Mean For Business?

The rapid advancement of artificial intelligence (AI) in recent years has ignited exciting transformations across various industries, offering immense potential for innovation and efficiency gains. However, alongside these opportunities come significant challenges, particularly in terms of regulatory compliance and ensuring ethical AI practices.

On March 21, 2024, all 193 members of the United Nations (UN) General Assembly unanimously adopted the first global resolution on AI, a landmark decision that marks the first step in safeguarding human rights, protecting personal data, and monitoring AI risks. While this resolution is not a formal regulation, it sets a precedent for governments and regulatory bodies around the world to guide next steps in AI’s development and deployment.

What is the UN AI Resolution?

The UN AI Resolution refers to various UN initiatives concerning artificial intelligence (AI). The primary goals of this landmark resolution are to raise public awareness about AI’s benefits and risks, strengthen investments in AI research and development, safeguard privacy, ensure transparency, and address diversity and bias issues in AI datasets and algorithms.

There are several notable initiatives and discussions related to AI within the UN system, including:

  1. UNESCO's Recommendation on the Ethics of Artificial Intelligence: In 2021, UNESCO adopted a recommendation on the ethics of AI, focusing on promoting human rights, dignity, and sustainable development in the context of AI technologies.
  2. UN Secretary-General's High-Level Panel on Digital Cooperation: This panel, established in 2018, has addressed various aspects of digital technology, including AI, and has made recommendations on how to harness these technologies for global development while addressing challenges such as ethics, governance, and inclusion.
  3. UN Group of Governmental Experts on Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems (LAWS): This group has been discussing the ethical and legal implications of autonomous weapons, which are a subset of AI technologies.
  4. UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): AI is increasingly being integrated into discussions and initiatives related to achieving the SDGs, such as using AI for healthcare, climate action, and addressing inequalities.
  5. UNESCO's International Information and Communication Technology Policy: This initiative addresses broader issues of digital technology policy, including AI, and seeks to promote international cooperation and dialogue on these matters.

The UN AI resolution is the latest in a series of initiatives around AI development and use, but many of these initiatives aren’t enforceable by regulatory bodies and surface complex implications for businesses. The reason for this is that AI is particularly challenging to regulate.

The Challenge of Regulating AI

While the UN AI resolution represents a significant step forward in AI governance, it also poses implementation challenges for businesses, particularly startups and small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). The complexity of AI systems, coupled with stringent regulatory requirements, can create barriers to entry and hinder innovation for these organizations.

Key Challenges of Regulating AI:

  • Technical Complexity: AI systems often involve intricate algorithms and machine learning models that can be challenging to understand and regulate. The dynamic nature of AI technology adds a layer of complexity, making it difficult for regulators to keep pace with advancements. It also makes it more challenging for businesses to implement regulatory frameworks without disrupting workflows.
  • International Standards and Coordination: AI is a global technology, and regulations vary significantly across jurisdictions. Harmonizing international standards and fostering collaboration among regulators worldwide is essential to address cross-border AI challenges and ensure consistent governance.
  • Regulatory Agility and Innovation: AI technologies evolve rapidly, often outpacing regulatory frameworks. Regulators must be agile in their approach to keep pace with technological advancements. Overly stringent guidelines could inhibit innovation and deter businesses from adopting AI technologies.

Despite these challenges, establishing regulations for AI is an imperative stride toward fostering transparency, ethical standards, and safety in AI development and deployment. Although the UN’s resolution isn’t enforceable, it is poised to influence subsequent national and regional AI legislations. The first example of this is the EU AI Act, which is the first ever legal framework on AI.

EU Passes First Legislation to Regulate AI

On the heels of the UN AI Resolution, the European Union (EU) recently passed the first legislation to regulate AI. The act outlines a robust legal structure, establishing standards for AI development and deployment in the EU that prioritize data protection, human rights, and human oversight of AI.

The EU AI Act addresses the unique challenges of regulating AI by providing a robust regulatory framework that aims to strike a balance between fostering innovation and safeguarding fundamental values. It outlines guidelines for the responsible development and use of AI systems, with a focus on transparency, accountability, and risk mitigation. By prioritizing human oversight and data protection, the legislation aims to build trust among users and stakeholders while minimizing potential harms associated with AI technologies.

What the UN AI Resolution Means for Businesses

For businesses that develop or deploy AI, the UN AI Resolution has implications around the world. As global AI regulation continues to evolve, companies may face increasing pressure to align with international standards to remain competitive in the global marketplace, potentially altering product development plans and market strategies. This includes adapting to the EU’s recent regulations and anticipating future regulatory developments in other regions.

To effectively navigate these challenges, companies should take a proactive approach to AI governance and compliance. By committing to ethical AI development and data protection, companies around the world can position themselves as leaders in AI governance.

Here are a few ways businesses can weather the evolving regulatory landscape, foster a culture of innovation, and adhere to emerging AI regulations.

Invest in Cybersecurity and GRC

New regulations prioritize data protection and regulatory compliance. In order to stay ahead of the curve, businesses must allocate resources to build compliance and security teams or identify third-party experts or vendors to strengthen your security posture. Stringent cybersecurity measures and a robust GRC framework will serve as an essential foundation for adapting to ever-evolving regulatory changes.

Embed Security into Your Business Strategy

The days of security being siloed in IT and InfoSec are gone. In order to stay competitive in the global marketplace, businesses must integrate security and compliance considerations into their overall business strategy. This includes incorporating regulatory readiness and security measures into high-level strategic discussions and decision-making processes and educating stakeholders on the importance of integrating compliance into company planning.

Apply Stringent Data Protection Measures

With growing concerns surrounding the transparency of AI development and deployment, data protection is of utmost importance. Deploy technical safeguards and establish policies to maintain data privacy and integrity in alignment with regulatory guidelines. Educate employees on data handling best practices and the value of data protection measures.

Stay Abreast of Regulatory Changes

Businesses must stay abreast of new laws, guidelines, and best practices related to AI governance, both within the EU and globally. This proactive approach enables organizations to anticipate regulatory changes and adjust their strategies accordingly, minimizing compliance risks and maximizing competitive advantage.

The UN AI Resolution represents a significant milestone in AI governance, prioritizing data protection, human rights, and transparency in AI development and deployment. While it poses challenges for businesses, it also presents opportunities to innovate responsibly and build trust with stakeholders. By adopting a strategic approach that integrates compliance with innovation and ethical considerations, businesses can navigate the regulatory landscape effectively and leverage AI technologies for positive societal impact.

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Sarah Rearick
Content Writer