NEW YORK CITY: While artificial intelligence had great potential benefits, it must have safeguards, the UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed said on Tuesday.
Speaking at a press briefing on the sidelines of the 78th UN General Assembly in New York, Mohammed told Arab News: “The new era of technology is of great concern to us.
“It has massive potential for the SDGs (sustainable development goals) — whether it’s health, or it’s industry, cities, education — but they have to have guardrails.”
She pointed out that this year’s UNGA was the first time that AI had been mentioned during the general debate, and that 14 speakers discussed the topic.
“We had huge engagement with that. There were a number of side meetings, some outside of the UN, but they did gather huge numbers of experts and stakeholders.
“Everyone’s saying that really, the place for us to be discussing those guardrails and protection of the potentials, I would say, is the UN, and I think that was good news for us,” she said.
Mohammed told journalists that having only one head of state – US President Joe Biden – from the five countries of the UN Security Council present at the UNGA was “disappointing.”
“Certainly, we might have had more commitments that would have been tangible, had they been here, on many of the SDGs but also the more general agenda that was discussed at the debate,” she added.
But she noted that 88 heads of state were in attendance this year.
On Afghanistan, Mohammed said she was profoundly disappointed at the state of women’s rights in the country, which was taken over by the Taliban in 2021.
“Just when you think it’s getting bad for women in Afghanistan, it gets worse. I think that here, we have to continue to keep the voice and engagement loud. It was good to have that discussion in the Security Council today and to see Afghan women speak. We will continue to keep that voice alive,” she added.
Mohammed also condemned the underrepresentation of women at the assembly, despite the fifth SDG being gender equality.
“We have no apologies to say, ‘it is wrong for you to present all male delegations in this day and age.’ What we did here is to show the UN itself presents women at the table.
“It’s always been time for a female (secretary-general), and we are not short of women leaders in the world to take that position.”
Mohammed praised the increased presence of member states’ finance ministers at the UNGA.
She said: “There were finance ministers in this building. That’s really important. This has not been a domain where the finance constituency thinks they should come and have a conversation on finance. And they were here, and there were many heads of state and government who wanted to speak on the financing for development meetings.”
The “next bus stop” on the path to meeting SDGs, Mohammed noted, would be the annual World Bank and International Monetary Fund meetings, to be held in Marrakesh, Morocco in October.
She pointed out that the SDG summit, on the sidelines of the UNGA, saw “an impressive increase” in involvement and awareness of development goals, adding that this year’s summit featured 165 speakers as opposed to the 100 which spoke in 2019.
UN Under Secretary-General for General Assembly and Conference Management Movses Abelian said more than 2,000 bilateral meetings had been held on the sidelines of the General Assembly, which was attended by at least 13,000 diplomats, over 2,500 journalists, and 40,000 other guests.