Article Alert: United Nations System White Paper on AI Governance

Author: High-Level Committee on Programmes (HLCP); Inter-Agency Working Group on Artificial Intelligence (IAWG-AI)

Executive Summary:

Artificial Intelligence (AI) governance has gained significant importance in recent years, especially
since late 2022, due to the rapid development and expansion of generative AI and large language
models, coupled with numerous global leaders voicing concerns about AI’s existential risks. There
have been calls to ensure the effectiveness and coherence of the multiple international AI governance
efforts and to understand them in the broader context of governance of digital technologies, factoring
in the existing digital divide, including the gender digital divide.

This paper1 outlines the UN System’s work on AI governance, focusing on current institutional
models and related functions, and existing international normative frameworks in the UN system that
could be applied or leveraged for international AI governance. This paper is intended to inform the
United Nations (UN) System deliberations on AI and is also a UN System-wide contribution to the
Secretary-General’s High-level Advisory Body on AI (HLAB-AI).

The data and findings generated during the research present a high-level overview of the UN System’s
extensive resources, expertise, and experience with normative governance processes and structures
related to AI governance. It demonstrates that the UN System has been proactive in addressing the
many challenges derived from the rapid development of Artificial Intelligence and has responded
with diverse mechanisms to support Member States. In particular, the UN System plays a unique role
as a convener for scientific and political consensus building and a platform for norm-setting,
engaging with governments, the private sector, academia, and civil society, and helping Member
States develop technical and policy capacities. Additionally, the UN System champions an ethical,
human-centred, and human-rights-based approach to bridging the digital divide.

Further deliberations are required on the critical efforts/expertise needed to fully address emerging
AI challenges and ensure that AI governance approaches balance economic, social, and
environmental goals. It is also essential for the System to strengthen implementation and coordination
mechanisms