A human rights expert says that taking into account the participation of people and communities, States must generate public policies that allow access to resources and basic rights such as health, education, food, and housing. Liliana Valiña also talks in an interview with UN News about the urgent need to regulate artificial intelligence.

By: UN News.

Liliana Valiña is the chair of the Expert Mechanism on the Right to Development, a relatively new mechanism of five independent experts of the Human Rights Council.

Valiña has just come to New York to deliver her latest report and, on that occasion, UN News spoke with her to explain what are the challenges and issues that most hinder the right to development at the moment and the solutions to enjoy it.

UN News: What is the right to development and what do we mean by development?

Liliana Valiña: It is closely related to the United Nations Declaration on the Right to Development, which states that it is an inalienable right of every person and of all peoples. In other words, there is the individual dimension but also the collective dimension (…) (Both) are entitled to access and participate in a development that has all these social, cultural, political, economic and, although the Declaration does not say so because it is from another era, today we also add the environmental dimension.

The idea is that on the basis of this participation (individuals and communities) can access the full range of human rights and fundamental freedoms, contribute to development and receive its benefits.

And in this aspect, a central element is the duty of states to generate public policies that create opportunities, including access to basic resources and basic rights such as health, education, food, housing….

These policies must include participation. This is a concept that I would like to highlight because what it points to is active, free and meaningful participation, not just any participation, but participation that is included (in public policies), that is, participation that influences decision-making for the equitable distribution of the benefits of development.

And the other aspect included in the declaration, which is also fundamental, is that as we are in a world where the impact is not only on one country but is global, when there are difficulties in accessing development and achieving the objectives, we are talking about the need for solidarity and international cooperation.

Facing inequality, education and participation

UN News: This year’s report of the mechanism is a wide-ranging report, because the right to development itself, as you have just explained, is a wide-ranging report. But what are the highlights?

Liliana Valiña: In this report, we have tried to reflect important areas for the realisation of the right to development such as inequality, social protection and the right to development, the right to development and international investment law and the duty to cooperate of non-state actors, i.e. those actors such as the private sector and how they contribute to the right to development.

UN News: You talked about inequality. How do you address how development can reduce or eradicate that inequality?

Liliana Valiña: Inequality is one of our main preoccupations because one of the contributions we made was precisely the measurement of progress beyond the Gross Domestic Product. Why? Because we need to see the reality beyond the general parameters of a country. We need to look at the situation of people, of communities and the concrete access to their basic rights and to be able to participate in and benefit from development.

There is no real legislation on artificial intelligence.

Inequality is at the heart of the obstacles to development and one of the key answers is participation. The need to focus on the fact that there must be a diverse participation, including women, children, adolescents, young people, but also rural and urban populations.

That is to say, (it is about) making sure that the answers take into account the specificities and risks that some actions and policies generate on some communities, the environment in which they take place, and that is why there is a need for local updating and adaptation in relation to policies, programmes and strategies for access to the right to development.

UN News: I understand that it is a participation of civil society, but who is being requested to include this participation?

Liliana Valiña: Here, the issue of education is fundamental, because it is an education at the level of citizen and person to be able to be responsible and seek participation.

But, at the same time, it is an education of political, economic, and social actors who must contribute to generating the conditions for the participation of all people in their diversity and also for this participation to be truly meaningful, that is, to have an impact.

For this reason, the right to development provides the opportunity for people to be able to participate through education and thus be able to influence decision-making and the priorities of their community or their country.

Artificial intelligence and its risks

UN News: Finally, you have addressed something new in the report, which is artificial intelligence. What challenges does this new technology pose to the right to development?

Liliana Valiña: Yes, it is an issue that we have identified as one of the major challenges and that is why we have included it.

Why did we choose this topic? Because indeed, if we go back to the essence of the right to development, of the need, of the active and meaningful participation of individuals and peoples, artificial intelligence, on the one hand, can bring benefits and obviously accelerate processes, whether in scientific or technological processes or even in health, to provide faster answers to different diagnoses, but at the same time it generates a series of risks.

Because if there is insufficient regulation and clarity it can have an impact and inhibit the filters that already exist to avoid, for example, discrimination or exclusion of groups (…), or it can even have an impact on certain types of violence.

Therefore, it is necessary to build a series of rules and clear parameters to prevent and mitigate these risks. At present, there is no real legislation on artificial intelligence.

There are regulations that belong to the companies that work on the issue and that focus a lot on ethical limits, but there is no clear definition of what we are talking about when we talk about ethics, what these limits really are, what the measures are and how they are supervised so that these negative impacts are truly avoided.

The right to development can, on the one hand, benefit from the advances of artificial intelligence, but it urgently requires work on the risks and perverse impacts on people, on exclusion in the participation and diversity of communities.