Artificial Intelligence (AI) Breakthrough

How Europe’s AI convention balances innovation and human rights | Explained


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Europe’s AI convention;

Mains level: What is Europe’s AI convention?

Why in the News?

Global AI governance is becoming increasingly intricate, with countries employing diverse approaches. This shows that the Global treaties may face significant challenges despite widespread support.

About the Council of Europe (COE)

  • The COE is an intergovernmental organization established in 1949. It currently has 46 member states, including the Holy See, Japan, and the U.S., alongside EU countries.
  • Aim: To uphold human rights, democracy, and the rule of law in Europe.

What is Europe’s AI convention?

  • Europe’s AI convention, officially known as the Framework Convention on Artificial Intelligence and Human Rights, Democracy and the Rule of Law, represents a significant milestone in AI governance.
  • Adopted by the Council of Europe (COE) on May 17, this convention addresses the pressing need for comprehensive regulation of AI, particularly concerning its impact on human rights, democracy, and the rule of law.

The scope of the Framework Convention on Artificial Intelligence and Human Rights, Democracy, and the Rule of Law encompasses:

  • It ensures that activities throughout the lifecycle of Artificial Intelligence (AI) systems align fully with Human Rights, Democracy, and the Rule of Law.
  • Consistent with the EU AI Act and the OECD’s definition, an AI system is defined as a machine-based system that generates outputs based on input to influence physical or virtual environments.


  • Application by Parties: The convention applies to activities involving AI systems conducted by both public authorities and private actors acting on their behalf.
  • Addressing Risks: Parties are required to address risks and impacts from AI systems activities by private actors that are not covered under (a) in a manner consistent with the convention’s objectives.

Difference Between a Framework Convention and a Protocol

  • Framework Convention: A legally binding treaty specifying broad commitments and objectives.Allows parties discretion in achieving objectives, adapting to their capacities and priorities.Example: Convention on Biological Diversity.
  • Protocol: Specific agreements are negotiated under a framework convention. Sets specific targets or detailed measures to achieve the broader objectives of the framework convention.Example: Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety under the Convention on Biological Diversity.

Addressing National Security in the AI Convention

  • Exemptions for National Security: Articles 3.2, 3.3, and 3.4 provide broad exemptions for national security interests, research, development, testing, and national defense, excluding military AI applications from the convention’s scope.
  • Balancing Flexibility and Regulation: Article 3(b) allows parties some flexibility in applying the convention to the private sector, preventing total exemption but accommodating national security needs.
  • General Obligations: Articles 4 and 5 ensure the protection of human rights, democratic integrity, and the rule of law, requiring parties to address disinformation and deep fakes as part of their national security measures.
  • Scope for Further Action: Article 22 allows parties to exceed specified commitments, enabling additional measures to address national security concerns related to AI.

Conclusion: The AI convention is essential because it reinforces existing human and fundamental rights within the context of AI applications, rather than creating new rights. It emphasizes the need for governments to uphold these rights and implement effective remedies and procedural safeguards.

Mains PYQ:

Q “The emergence of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (Digital Revolution) has initiated e-Governance as an integral part of government”. Discuss.(UPSC IAS/2020)

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