Ulkoministeri Soinin puhe tekoälyseminaarissa

Mr Secretary General,
Madam Minister Belloubet, [Minister Häkkänen]
Ladies and Gentlemen,

The Council of Europe’s work to safeguard human rights in Europe is instrumental. Our society and the lives of our citizens have changed for the better due to the membership of the organization.  Thus, we will do our utmost to support and defend the Council of Europe in its core work.

As a Chair of the Committee of Ministers’ our priority is to support and strengthen Europe’s system of human rights and the Rule of Law. This conference focuses on the topical issue of the impact of artificial intelligence on these core values.

The Council of Europe is well suited to address the artificial intelligence as the organization and its instruments protect and promote human rights, democracy and the Rule of Law. However, the topic must be approached comprehensively - and with inclusive participation of the relevant stakeholders. This includes not only governments and international organizations, but also businesses, civil society, academia and research as well as the media. That is why I am pleased to see you all here. I want to warmly welcome you to Helsinki!

It so happens that our six month Presidency is full of anniversaries! We have had the honor to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the European Court of Human Rights and the 20th anniversary of the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights. In May the Council of Europe itself will celebrate its 70th birthday.  

These anniversaries are well-merited celebrations. However, they also provide a timely opportunity to highlight achievements and emphasize the challenges we face.

During the past decades, technology has developed at a pace and magnitude few were able to anticipate. We have, for example, witnessed an unforeseen development in designing more autonomous information technology and collecting and using the so-called Big Data. This has already changed the lives of people all over the world. But I believe that the “Big Bang” is yet to come.

The technological achievements provide us with new means to promote human rights and the Rule of Law. But, they also mean fundamental ethical challenges to the multilateral order.

In the technologically driven world - where many issues are done by the klick of a finger or automatically through the social media - our values and norms are being challenged in a completely new way.  I wish to underline that the rights - and obligations - that people have offline must be protected and observed online.

The Council of Europe has an important role in reacting to these human rights challenges arising from a changing world, including challenges posed by new technology, digitalization and, in particular, artificial intelligence.

Fortunately, the Council of Europe is not alone with this issue: human rights aspects of artificial intelligence have been raised also in the UN as well as in the European Union.

Setting an example is pivotal. And important steps have indeed been taken: Last December Council of Europe’s European Commission for the Efficiency of Justice adopted the first European ethical principles related to the use of artificial intelligence in the judicial systems. Two weeks ago, the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers encouraged the Member States to assume their responsibility to address the threat of machine learning tools used to manipulate and control our economic, social and political behavior.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Artificial intelligence has been a topic of numerous events and conferences, but the point of view has mainly been technological. The aspects of human rights and the Rule of Law have not been address sufficiently.

During the next two days, you will take an in-depth look into these topics. You will be discussing the positive impact of artificial intelligence on the enjoyment of human rights as well as the potential risks involved.

Some of the questions to be raised include: Are some groups neglected or do they face special challenges due to biased algorithms? What happens to democracy, security and accountability? What are the impacts of artificial intelligence to justice system? How could we ensure that artificial intelligence supports the advancement of democracy and the rule of law?

It is important to discuss also the positive effects of new technologies as they relate to human rights. So, you will learn how artificial intelligence applications have improved the field of health care. New technologies may also improve our possibilities to discover and verify human rights violations.

Let us keep one thing in mind: The protection of human rights must be guaranteed also in the future. Here the Council of Europe can set an example!