Mar 21, 2024 - Technology

Scoop: U.S. wins China's support on AI human rights vote

fractured globe of world

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

The U.S. has scored a rare diplomatic victory at the United Nations — signing up China as co-sponsor of the first ever AI resolution voted on by the U.N. General Assembly.

Why it matters: The race to develop powerful AI has been a source of geopolitical tension — China's move to co-sponsor American efforts hints at further cooperation on AI safety, and is a win for U.S. diplomats.

  • In 2015 all 193 U.N. member countries agreed to work towards 17 Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, but those efforts are far off-track.
  • AI offers opportunities to more accurately measure and more quickly achieve progress towards goals including quality education and affordable clean energy.

China's support guarantees the resolution will pass by a large margin in a vote expected Thursday.

Behind the scenes: Diplomats signed up more than 100 governments as co-sponsors, with U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas Greenfield working since December to secure China's support.

  • The U.S. accepted comments and tweaks to the text from 120 countries, diplomats told Axios.
  • Changes to the text suggested by developing countries include new language recognizing AI threats to jobs, and the necessity of basic infrastructure such as electricity and broadband internet as conditions for fair access to emerging AI technologies.

The big picture: Previous international AI initiatives have been led or contained to the most powerful nations at forums like the G-7, G-20 and OECD.

  • Today's resolution is the first major effort at engaging with Global South countries.

Yes, but: UN General Assembly resolutions are not legally binding, unlike resolutions passed by the UN Security Council.

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