Council of Europe adopts first international treaty on artificial intelligence


The Council of Europe has approved a groundbreaking treaty, marking the world’s first internationally binding agreement focused on safeguarding human rights, upholding the rule of law, and preserving democratic principles in the deployment of artificial intelligence (AI) systems.

This treaty, which is open to participation by non-European nations, establishes a comprehensive legal framework spanning the entire lifecycle of AI systems while promoting responsible innovation and addressing potential risks.

Named the Council of Europe Framework Convention on Artificial Intelligence and Human Rights, Democracy, and the Rule of Law, this historic agreement was adopted during the annual ministerial meeting of the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers in Strasbourg. Council of Europe Secretary General Marija Pejčinović hailed it as a pioneering global treaty aimed at ensuring that AI technologies uphold fundamental human rights, with a balanced approach to harnessing their benefits while mitigating risks.

The convention is the culmination of two years of collaborative efforts by the Committee on Artificial Intelligence (CAI), bringing together representatives from 46 Council of Europe member states, the European Union, and 11 non-member states. It also involved input from various sectors including the private industry, civil society, and academia.

Covering both public and private sector applications, the treaty offers flexible compliance mechanisms for regulating AI systems, acknowledging the diversity of legal systems worldwide. It mandates transparency, oversight, and risk assessment measures tailored to specific contexts, emphasizing accountability, equality, and privacy rights.

Furthermore, the treaty addresses risks to democracy, requiring measures to prevent AI systems from undermining democratic institutions and processes. It exempts certain activities related to national security interests but underscores the importance of adherence to international law and democratic principles.

To facilitate effective implementation, the convention establishes a follow-up mechanism through a Conference of the Parties. Each participating nation is required to establish independent oversight mechanisms, promote public awareness, facilitate informed debates, and engage in multistakeholder consultations on AI technology usage.

The Council of Europe plans to open the treaty for signature in Vilnius, Lithuania, on September 5th, coinciding with a conference of Ministers of Justice. This significant step aims to set a global standard for the ethical development and deployment of AI technologies, ensuring they align with fundamental human rights, democratic values, and the rule of law.