Convention on AI and human rights (CoE process)
In 2021 the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe (CoE) approved the creation of a Committee on Artificial Intelligence (CAI) tasked with elaborating a legal instrument on the development, design, and application of artificial intelligence (AI) systems based on the CoE’s standards on human rights, democracy and the rule of law, and conducive to innovation.
The Committee started working in 2022 and has 15 November 2023 as a deadline to finalise the drafting of the legal instrument, in the form of a [Framework] Convention on AI, Human Rights, Democracy and the Rule of Law.
CAI main tasks
According to its Terms of reference, CAI is instructed to:
- ensure the follow-up of the relevant decisions taken at the 131st Session of the Committee of Ministers (Hamburg, 21 May 2021),2 and in particular contribute to the implementation of the key strategic priorities relating to its specific field of expertise as identified in the Strategic Framework of the Council of Europe, and respond to the respective key findings and challenges set out in the Secretary General’s 2021 Report on the state of democracy, human rights and rule of law “A democratic renewal for Europe”;
- establish an international negotiation process and conduct work to elaborate an appropriate legal framework on the development, design, and application of artificial intelligence, based on the Council of Europe’s standards on human rights, democracy and the rule of law, and conducive to innovation, which can be composed of a binding legal instrument of a transversal character, including notably general common principles, as well as additional binding or non-binding instruments to address challenges relating to the application of artificial intelligence in specific sectors, in accordance with the relevant decisions of the Committee of Ministers;
- maintain a transversal approach, also by co-ordinating its work with other intergovernmental committees and Council of Europe’s entities equally addressing the implications of artificial intelligence in their respective field of activity, by providing these committees and entities with guidance in conformity with the legal framework under development and by assisting them in resolving problems;
- base the work on strong evidence and an inclusive consultation process, including with international and supranational partners, to ensure a global view of the subject;
- hold an exchange of views annually in order to evaluate its activities and advise the Committee of Ministers and the Secretary General on future priorities in its sector, including possible new activities and those that might be discontinued;
- take due account of the following mainstreamed perspectives in the performance of its tasks: gender, youth, children’s rights, rights of persons with disabilities, and Roma and Traveller3 issues;
- where relevant, contribute to building cohesive societies and to strengthening the role and meaningful participation of civil society in its work;
- contribute to the achievement of, and review progress towards, the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, in particular with regards to Goal 5: Gender Equality, Goal 16: Peace, Justice and Strong institutions.
Members include representatives of Council of Europe member states. When voting is involved, each member state has one vote.
Participants. The entities listed below may send representatives to participate in committee meetings, without the right to vote:
- Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe;
- Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe;
- European Court of Human Rights;
- Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe;
- Conference of INGOs of the Council of Europe;
- European Audiovisual Observatory;
- Committees or other bodies of the Council of Europe engaged in related work, as appropriate.
- European Union (one or more representatives, including, as appropriate, the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA));
- Observer States to the Council of Europe: Canada, Holy See, Japan, Mexico, United States of America;
- other international organisations including: Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) and other UN agencies and international organisations.
Observers. The entities listed below may send representatives to participate in committee meetings, without the right to vote:
- the European Network of National Human Rights Institutions;
- the Global Partnership on Artificial Intelligence (GPAI);
- Council of Europe partner internet companies ;
- civil society organisations, other private actors and academic communities already observers to the Committee during the biennium 2020-2021 (Access Now, AI Transparency Institute, Algorithmwatch Platform, ALLAI, Centre for AI and Digital Policies (CAIDP) of the Michael Dukakis Institute, Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe (CCBE), European Association of Data Protection Professionals (EADPP), European Expertise & Expert Institute (EEEI), Homo Digitalis, Human Rights Watch, International Bar Association (IBA), International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), International Research Centre on Artificial Intelligence (IRCAI), MediaLaws, National Institute for Research in Digital Science and Technology (INRIA), The Future Society, Istanbul Bar Association, Information and Technology Commission and AI Working Group, Global Partners Digital (GPD), Law Society of Ireland (Law Society), VDE Association for Electrical, Electronic & Information Technologies and Partnership on AI (PAI)).
- Observer status may be requested in accordance with Article 8 of Resolution CM/Res(2021)3 on intergovernmental committees and subordinate bodies, their terms of reference and working methods.
Status of negotiations
In February 2023, CAI decided to make public the revised “Zero Draft” [Framework] Convention on Artificial Intelligence, Human Rights, Democracy and the Rule of Law.
The draft was prepared by the CAI Chair with the support of the Secretariat and constitutes the basis for the convention's drafting process.
The committee held two meetings in 2022 and is expected to hold a maximum of four meetings in 2023.
Upcoming meeting: April 2023
- 4th meeting, February 2023 | List of decisions
- 3rd meeting, January 2023 | List of decisions
- 2nd meeting, September 2022 | List of decisions
- 1st meeting, April 2022 | List of decisions
CAI builds on the work carried out between 2019 and 2021 by the CoE's Ad hoc Committee on Artificial Intelligence (CAHAI), which was tasked with 'the feasibility and potential elements on the basis of broad multi-stakeholder consultations, of a legal framework for the development, design and application of artificial intelligence, based on the Council of Europe’s standards on human rights, democracy and the rule of law'.
At the conclusion of its work, in December 2021, CAHAI adopted a document outlining Possible elements of a legal framework on artificial intelligence, based on the Council of Europe’s standards on human rights, democracy and the rule of law.
Other documents produced as part of the Committee's work include: