Key Conclusions of the Final Report from the Club de Madrid Policy Lab “Fundamental Rights in AI & Digital Societies: Towards an International Accord”

Nov 7, 2021News


  • There is no doubt that digital technologies, and AI, in particular, have, for better or for worse, generated a revolution for fundamental rights. Building an international agreement on digital governance has complexities and the global policy and geopolitical environment plays a key role in facilitating or limiting the construction of this agreement.
  • Common democratic values such as respect and promotion of human rights, and the rule of law are crucial to underpinning digital policy as an essential starting point to move towards that agreement.
  • Challenges such as AI and data governance that domestic frameworks cannot address alone are crucial points on which we must focus. From there, we can start with small but important steps to build a culture of agreement on digital issues – _with a premium on the Transatlantic space, that has the advantage of shared values.
  • In a field where so much is yet to come, we are convinced that international cooperation for Artificial Intelligence and digital technologies is an opportunity to write the rules together. The Framework for AI International Accord, a part of the e-book “Remaking the World – Toward an Age of Global Enlightenment”, presented at this Policy Lab is a significant start for this goal.
  • We need some internationally agreed fundamental rules or norms to guide the development of technologies; we cannot anticipate to protect rights we do not fully comprehend; and the efforts that already exist are essential to continue working on the objective that gathered us these three days. It will be a challenging process, because of the variety of values and approaches that are emerging in different parts of the world, but there is common ground to be found. And to that end, making principles operational and integrating a variety of stakeholders representing countries and communities in all their diversity, including inter-generational differences is needed.
  • Many of the issues discussed intersect with the crucial work the UN is both doing and planning to do, under the leadership of Secretary-General Guterres, to maintain international peace and security, and support the achievement of the SDGs. AI, cybersecurity, diplomacy, and development – _not least social development – _all relate to defense and promotion of fundamental rights in the digital sphere. It is our aim that our recommendations, the United Nations Centennial Initiative, and the book “Remaking the World – Toward an Age of Global Enlightenment” support ‘Our Common Agenda’ and, particularly, the Global Digital Compact proposal.
  • There is no lack of goodwill and effort to build an AI framework on which different actors – governments, local governments, and non-government actors can agree. The UNESCO Recommendation on the Ethics of Artificial Intelligence is a promising step in the right direction.
  • We have also established a Global Alliance for Digital Governance that includes relevant stakeholders -governments, private sector, academia, civil society, international organizations- to reduce the digital field’s development gaps and bring communities together, thus contributing to the United Nations Centennial Initiative.
  • We agreed on the need for a new social contract that takes digital transformation into account. To build a social contract suited for the digital age, going beyond traditional allies and reach out to those who think differently is crucial. The Social Contract for the AI Age is a recognized tool and will be fundamental for the Age of Global Enlightenment.
  • Throughout this process of reflection, trust is essential and to obtain that we would need to build on security, privacy, reliability and fairness as crucial pillars that will promote digital technologies as a tool to serve inclusive societies.
  • Protecting access to information, education and digital literacy and finding a balance between freedom of speech and the imperative to have a common truth will allow progress on drafting common rules on AI. In this regard, the AIWS City will be a practical model for addressing this issue.
  • It is tough to craft legislation and rules for technologies that are not yet being used, so we need a risk-based approach to digital governance. In the case of AI, this approach will help to elaborate some of the requirements for its design, development and application phases.
  • Ex ante and ex-post regulation are not incompatible. We need both to better govern digital. Ex ante regulation will allow institutions to provide guardrails for rights, including data rights, in the deployment of AI systems. Ex post regulation will allow AI systems to be audited. In this regard, we agreed accountability is a fundamental consideration in the deployment of AI technologies. We need to be able to explain how AI systems reach the decisions they reach and will allow us to work to stop the dynamics of discrimination, exclusion and inequalities that are being replicated and amplified by AI technologies. The Global Alliance for Digital Governance can be a significant movement for this mission.
  • The Community Innovation Economy concept was introduced during the Policy Lab as a tool that empowers citizens to create value for themselves, for others, and for society through the application of AI, digital, block chain, and data science technologies. It is a sharing ecosystem that rewards both the creators and users of these technologies, as well as an ecosystem that encourages everyone to innovate.
  • Despite the existing gaps in the regulation of digital technologies and their use, they have been fundamental tools of resilience during the COVID-19 pandemic and we must not forget their benefits.
  • Finally, we would like to mention that many of the discussions of the six Plenaries highlighted the significant contributions of the e-book, “Remaking the World – Toward an Age of Global Enlightenment”, published by the UN Centennial Initiative and the Boston Global Forum.