US Obtains Exclusion of NGOs from Drafting AI Treaty

The first international treaty on Artificial Intelligence is being drafted. However, civil society organizations will not have a seat at that table. 

Civil society organizations have been excluded from the drafting process due to a request by the U.S. in order to avoid countries’ positions becoming public. 

The Council of Europe’s Committee on Artificial Intelligence was tasked with developing a Convention on Artificial Intelligence, focusing on human rights, democracy, and the rule of law.

The international organization is made up of 46 members, including the European Union, the United Kingdom, Turkey, and Ukraine. Russia was recently expelled from the Strasbourg-based body. 

At the Committee’s last session in November, the United States proposed to delegate the work to a drafting group formed by all the countries that might sign the treaty. 

The drafting group is essentially a plenary without the civil society groups.

The U.S. representative specifically mentioned that it did not want to disclose its negotiating positions publicly to non-country representatives.

According to reports, the U.S. has been pushing for limiting the scope of the AI treaty only to public bodies, carving out the private sector in which American companies play a world-leading role.

In the future, the drafting process and initial discussion will take place behind closed doors to avoid the specific position of countries becoming known. Then, the text will be shared with the NGOs, which will have the chance to comment in writing or orally at the next plenary.

Earlier this month, civil society organizations sent a letter to the Secretariat of the Committee on AI of the Council of Europe asking to observe forthcoming sessions. 

This week, the Center for AI and Digital Policy made a statement about the decision to exclude civil society organizations from the Drafting Group, saying they were concerned over the decision. 

“We have spent more than two years contributing actively and constructively to the work of the Council of Europe on Artificial Intelligence. We remain committed to the mandate of the Council of Europe Committee on AI. We will continue to express our views on the draft text. And we look forward to the adoption of a global treaty for AI that protects fundamental rights, democratic values, and the rule of law,” the statement said. 

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