Digital on Day 6 of UNGA78: A digital revolution for development
Welcome to our daily coverage of the General Debate of the 78th UN General Assembly (UNGA). This summary provides a comprehensive overview of how digital issues were tackled during day three of discussions on 26 September 2023. For real-time updates and in-depth reports on UNGA78, follow our live coverage on the Digital Watch Observatory‘s dedicated page through DiploAI reports, written by our AI reporting tool. Stay tuned for the final summary and data analysis from the entire General Debate!
Development: Digital revolution to achieve SDGs
In his speech, India’s External Affairs Minister, S. Jaishankar, emphasised the transformative role of digital public infrastructure and the democratisation of technology as national objectives. Jaishankar highlighted the importance of digitally-enabled governance and delivery.
Secretary of Relations with States of the Holy See,Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, emphasised that alongside technological advancement, there should be a parallel commitment to safeguarding our common home. He advocated for the responsible use of new technologies to combat the global crisis of climate change, pollution, and biodiversity loss. Gallagher echoed the injustice that those contributing the least to pollution often bore the brunt of climate change’s adverse effects, i.e., developing countries. Hence, Gallagher stressed the urgency of taking action to protect the world we inhabit.
Tandi Dorji, Bhutan’s minister for foreign affairs, underscored countries’ willingness to engage constructively in preparing for the Summit of the Future. He also advocated for the work towards the elaboration of a Global Digital Compact, aimed at accelerating the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. A notable achievement highlighted by Bhutan was the enactment of the National Digital Identity Act, making it the first nation worldwide to establish a legal framework for Self-Sovereign Identity, serving as a cornerstone for delivering digital services to its citizens.
Omar Hilale, chair of the delegation of Morocco, emphasised the necessity for international solidarity and cooperation in scientific research, particularly in areas such as AI, healthcare, energy transformation, and disaster management. Morocco called for the promotion of resilient societies through equity and social justice, underlining the importance of a multilateral system centred around the UN.
Damiano Beleffi, chair of the delegation of San Marino, focused on the significance of digital education and highlighted their support for the outcomes of the 2022 UN Transforming Education Summit. San Marino called upon member states to ensure the global spread of digitalisation, particularly in developing countries.
Stanley Kakubo, minister for foreign affairs of Zambia, drew attention to the potential of digital technology, particularly AI, to enhance citizens’ quality of life. They envisioned AI applications in healthcare and agriculture to bridge gaps. Zambia stressed the importance of forging alliances for technology development, sharing digital resources, and establishing regulations to promote social and economic development. They called for the responsible and ethical use of digital technologies to ensure information security and integrity. Zambia also urged support and investment in digital infrastructure and the provision of affordable devices and internet services, particularly in least developed countries.
Maldives’ Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Ahmed Khaleel, provided an update on the country’s progress toward the 2030 Agenda, emphasising the pivotal role of physical and digital connectivity in achieving these goals. He noted that the country is undergoing a digital revolution with the proliferation of online education, telemedicine and e-payment systems, with the aim of bringing services closer to its citizens.
AI: Addressing ethical dilemmas
Many people are concerned about AI, noted Chair of the Delegation of Canada, Robert Rae, adding that Canadians are no exception. Minister for External Affairs of Cameroon, Lejeune Mbella Mbella, emphasised the need to confront this challenge, while Denis Ronaldo Moncada Colindres, minister for foreign affairs of Nicaragua, underscored the universal right for all people to benefit from the advancements in science and technology like AI, as technologies are fruits of human intelligence. Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, minister for external affairs of India, further highlighted that the New Delhi G20 outcomes prioritise issues related to the responsible harnessing of AI.
Secretary of Relations with States of the Holy See,Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, expressed the pressing need for serious ethical contemplation regarding the integration of supercomputer systems into daily life. Entrusting decisions about an individual’s life and future to algorithms is unacceptable, he stressed. This is also valid in the development of the use of lethal autonomous weapons systems (LAWS), Gallagher noted.
The use of LAWS in armed conflicts must align with international humanitarian law, Gallagher stated and advocated for negotiations on a legally binding instrument to govern their use. Until such negotiations are concluded, the Holy See called for a moratorium on their deployment. Gallagher underscored the importance of ensuring meaningful human oversight in weapon systems, citing the unique capability of human beings to assess the ethical implications and responsibilities.
In the pursuit of addressing these challenges, the Holy See extended support for the establishment of an International Organization for Artificial Intelligence. Its mission would be to facilitate the exchange of scientific and technological information for peaceful purposes, promoting the common good and integral human development.
Security: Enhancing security in the digital world
Jamaica recognisesthe threat posed to peace and security in the digital space, Kamina Johnson Smith, minister for foreign affairs and foreign trade of Jamaica, noted. The country is actively working to enhance its domestic cybersecurity capabilities and is also involved in multilateral efforts to address cybersecurity issues. Additionally, she expressed Jamaica’s honour in leading the Caribbean Community’s (CARICOM) efforts towards the development of a UN Convention on Cybercrime.
Marc Hermanne Gninadoou Araba, chair of the delegation of Benin, acknowledged that addressing modern challenges, including cybersecurity, requires reforms supported by clear and resolute political determination.
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