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The UN Takes Center Stage in Global AI Governance Discussions

  • AI has become a focal point at the United Nations (UN) as the world grapples with its transformative potential and risks.
  • Divergent global perspectives on AI highlight the necessity for inclusive AI development to bridge disparities.
  • From healthcare to regulation, AI presents clear advantages when managed correctly, emphasizing the need for consensus at the UN.

On the other hand, artificial intelligence (AI) has changed from a peripheral topic into a central theme at the United Nations General Assembly, rapidly advancing from its infancy. With AI’s capacities and challenges becoming evident, the world is looking at the United Nations as the only global platform where concerns in this arena could be addressed.

A Growing Concern

AI’s impact on the global landscape, exemplified by technologies like ChatGPT, has thrust AI into the spotlight at the United Nations. Governments worldwide are pondering or implementing AI regulations, driven by concerns about both the need for safeguards and the potential benefits of AI. Simultaneously, worries about catastrophic risks associated with AI are mounting, necessitating a comprehensive approach.

UN’s Unique Role

With its unparalleled scope and history of facilitating global agreements, the United Nations is poised to play a pivotal role in shaping AI governance. The establishment of an AI advisory board underscores the UN’s commitment to tackling this critical issue. Amandeep Gill, the UN’s tech policy chief, stresses the importance of achieving a shared understanding of AI’s risks and the governance required to mitigate those risks while maximizing opportunities.

A Surging Conversation

The evolution of AI discussions at the UN General Assembly is noteworthy. In 2017, only three speakers mentioned AI during the “General Debate,” but this year, more than 20 speakers from diverse countries expressed their views on AI. Their concerns spanned from threats to privacy and safety to AI’s potential misuse as a “tool of destruction.”

Global Interest and Tech Industry Participation

The international community’s growing interest in AI governance is evident through numerous AI-policy panel discussions and gatherings during the General Assembly. Tech industry giants like Google are actively participating, contributing to the dialogue, and supporting the UN’s efforts to harmonize global AI discussions.

Challenges and Opportunities

While the United Nations provides a global forum for addressing AI, it faces challenges due to its consensus-driven approach and the predominant role of private companies in AI development. Nevertheless, Ian Bremmer, President of the Eurasia Group, underscores that a global issue like AI necessitates a global forum, and the UN is uniquely positioned to facilitate these discussions.

The Role of Governments

Governments may not be AI developers, but they can exert influence over its trajectory. Their responsibilities include regulating against misuse, safeguarding democracy and the rule of law, and promoting diversity and inclusivity in the AI ecosystem.

AI’s Risks and Opportunities

AI’s risks and opportunities vary depending on one’s perspective. While some fear that AI may exacerbate global inequalities, others view it as an opportunity to bridge gaps and provide a digital reset. Ensuring that AI development is inclusive and representative of diverse cultures and histories is a top priority.

Charting a Path Forward

As the UN advisory board charts its agenda, various proposals have emerged, including the establishment of global minimum standards for AI, alignment of global regulatory efforts, creation of AI registries, and a focus on regulating AI’s applications rather than the technology itself. Crafting a swift-response mechanism for potential AI-related crises is also under consideration.


Consequently, artificial intelligence has assumed worldwide dimensions as the UN becomes a key player in the coming years in determining how AI will be governed. While facing many difficulties and different views, it is becoming more evident that AI’s ability to do good should not remain unutilized if suitable precautions are taken. As the UN Advisory Board makes its first steps forward, the whole world is looking towards the United Nations to lay a common ground for understanding AI’s potential benefits versus dangers and defining the way responsible AI developments would be taken.

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