Artificial Intelligence Can ‘Save Lives, Create Jobs, Foster Progress’, Secretary-General Tells Seoul Summit

Following are UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ remarks to the Artificial Intelligence (AI) Seoul Summit, in Seoul and online today:

I thank the Republic of Korea and the United Kingdom for convening this Summit.

Less than seven months after our meeting in Bletchley Park, we are seeing life-changing technological advances… and life-threatening new risks — from disinformation to mass surveillance to the prospect of lethal autonomous weapons.

AI systems are still being deployed with little oversight or accountability.

We cannot sleepwalk into a dystopian future where the power of AI is controlled by a few people… or worse, by opaque algorithms beyond human understanding.

We need rules.  Safety.  Universal guardrails.  How we act now will define our era.

September’s United Nations Summit of the Future represents an opportunity to build the foundations of global AI governance.  And the independent Advisory Body I set up last year has identified clear priorities for inclusive, safe AI.

First — the creation of an International Scientific Panel on AI.

Policymakers cannot navigate this uncharted territory alone. They must be guided by universal, undisputed, up-to-date knowledge.

Second — we need regular, structured dialogue on AI governance connecting existing initiatives at the national, regional and industry level.

This will help to identify and replicate best practices across borders and sectors.

Third — developing common AI ethics and standards.

Algorithms must be designed to reduce bias, prevent discrimination and uphold the fundamental rights and dignity of every person.  Harmonizing standards — and regulations — is especially crucial for startups in developing countries.

Fourth and finally — we need global financial commitments to support developing countries in building capacity — in particular computing power — and participating in AI governance.

The digital divide cannot become the AI divide.

By pooling resources and expertise, we can harness the power of AI to reduce inequalities, advance the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and leave no one behind.

I also welcome the Advisory Body’s suggestion to create a United Nations AI Office as a light structure that would coordinate these efforts.

At the initiative of the United States, the UN General Assembly recently adopted its first resolution on AI, promoting safe, secure and trustworthy systems.

Another resolution on capacity-building for AI, put forward by China, is now under discussion.

And the Global Digital Compact — to be adopted by Heads of States at the Summit of the Future in September — includes concrete proposals for international cooperation on AI.  I urge everyone to support these efforts.

AI can save lives, create jobs, foster progress and contribute to an innovative and inclusive future.  So let us build innovative and inclusive global governance tools for AI — with human rights, human dignity and human agency front and centre.

For information media. Not an official record.