IGF 2022 WS #219 Global AI Governance for Sustainable Development

Thursday, 1st December, 2022 (12:05 UTC) - Thursday, 1st December, 2022 (13:35 UTC)

Organizer 1: José Gontijo, MCTI
Organizer 2: Heiko Wildner, Federal Ministry for Digital and Transport
Organizer 3: José Gontijo, Ministério de Ciência, Tecnologia e Inovações
Organizer 4: Janina Kempf, GIZ
Organizer 5: Luc Wuest, GIZ
Organizer 6: Onike Shorunkeh-Sawyerr, GIZ

Speaker 1: José Gontijo, Government, Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC)

Speaker 2: Davis Adieno, Technical Community, African Group

Speaker 3: Kim Dressendoerfer, Private Sector, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)

Speaker 4: Ledénika Mackensie Méndez González, Executive Director for Digital Inclusion at the Secretariat for Communications and Transport of the Mexico City Metropolitan Area

Speaker 5: Urvashi Aneja, Civil Society, Asia-Pacific Group



Onike Shorunkeh-Sawyerr, Government, African Group

Online Moderator

Janina Kempf, Intergovernmental Organization, Intergovernmental Organization


Luc Wuest, Government, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)


Round Table - U-shape - 90 Min

Policy Question(s)

1. What elements should be considered when designing AI governance frameworks? How to adequately relate them to Internet Governance mechanisms and institutions, such as IGF/ICANN? How to make the relationship between AI, the Internet and SDGs more explicit to stakeholders? 2. How to balance the need to regulate AI with the risk of losing the chances it offers for sustainable development? 3. Are the existing shared principles on sustainable AI development really shared by everyone? Or should we seek to include developing and emerging countries better in the development and implementation of those norms?

Connection with previous Messages: The proposals connects to many of the IGF2021 messages – however the strongest connex is with the following two: Adequate enabling environments (e.g. policies, legislation, institutions) need to be put in place at the national, regional and global levels to foster inclusive, just, safe, resilient and sustainable digital societies and economies Artificial Intelligence (AI) needs to be developed and deployed in manners that allow it to be as inclusive as possible, non-discriminatory, auditable and rooted into democratic principles, the rule of law and human rights.



8. Decent Work and Economic Growth
9. Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure
10. Reduced Inequalities
12. Responsible Production and Consumption
13. Climate Action

Targets: Although AI through its cross-cutting application in virtually all sectors of life and the transformative reconfiguration of economic and social interactions bears the potential to influence the achievement of all 17 SDGs positively or negatively, the biggest opportunities and threats remain in the indicated SDGs:. SDG 8 Decent Work and Economic Growth through the expected increase in productivity but also the shift in labour markets. SDG 9 Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure by enhancing the research activities globally and set up incentives for technology development. SDG 10 Reduced Inequalities by ensuring governance approaches that mitigate discriminatory effects of AI technology and enhance social protection and equality. SDG 12 Sustainable consumption and production patterns may be facilitated by the application of AI technologies. SDG 13 Climate Action by exploring and exploiting the possibilities of using AI technologies to support climate actions.


Artificial Intelligence (AI) has become a buzzword. On the one hand, it is portrayed as a set of technologies that will take over millions of jobs and exacerbate social inequalities. On the other hand, it is seen as a central tool to increase sustainability along its economic, environmental, and social dimensions, and support the worldwide efforts to achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

While AI’s potential to make a real contribution exists, realizing that potential while mitigating the related risks requires conducive framework conditions to be formulated. In this respect, challenges for policy makers include fostering access to meaningful data, incentivizing capacity development and more generally speaking, closing the governance gap to seize the potential of AI for SDGs. These challenges should be tackled collectively, and adequate framework conditions should be implemented internationally, in coordination with Internet Governance related institutions and mechanisms.

This context calls attention to the relationship between AI, the Internet, and SGDs. Recent studies pointed out to that AI has the potential to achieve more than 70 % of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). AI is expected to affect global productivity and economic growth, social equality and inclusion as well as climate actions and environmental protection, exerting influence on all sustainability dimensions. For instance, AI bears immense potential for contributing to urban sustainability with its application in smart city solutions. Intelligent predictive traffic guiding systems or improved approaches to shared mobility can support the reduction of traffic jams, pollution and allow for new business models. Furthermore, AI solutions can support nature preservation efforts in the fight against climate change, such as in monitoring rainforest health. The energy and agriculture sectors are other examples in which AI can boost sustainability by enhancing efficiency. Regarding the energy sector, AI can allow companies to find out detailed energy usage patterns and connect them with the availability of energy-generating facilities (wind turbines, hydraulic plants, biomass plants, etc.). While in the agricultural sector, AI can support production through intelligent usage of fertilizers and irrigation.

The relationship between AI and SDGs is so strong that various programmes are devoted to exploring AI opportunities. Some examples are the Artificial Intelligence for Sustainable Development Goals (AI4SDGs) Research Program, Oxford Initiative on AI×SDGs, and AI for Good. Nevertheless, reported potential impacts of AI indicate both positive and negative impacts on UN SDGs, and AI application does not come risk-free. For instance, digital technologies, including AI technologies, are energy intensive. Especially if energy sources are not renewable, this might counteract the mitigation of climate effects. Furthermore, AI tools and techniques can be abused and misused (intentionally or unintentionally), sometimes harming the people they are intended to help. AI also poses challenges to its own functioning, such as black boxes (researchers and users typically know the inputs and outputs but cannot explain the AI decision-making process) and the replication of social biases (embedded in machine learning dimensions such as the training data, in the algorithms themselves and the interpretation of results). This reality is dangerous as it might result in unforeseeable social consequences such as discriminatory recruiting algorithms, racist and sexist chatbots, or biased legal AI. Thus, a safe and resilient Internet with corresponding governance mechanisms is a further important element to managing risks.

Amid this context, and considering the normative dimension, some pragmatic questions of liability emerge: Who will be made accountable for machines’ decisions or what mechanisms may overturn AI decision making to guarantee social justice and a commitment to sustainability? These questions underpin two points. The first one is to the necessity to ensure that AI applications are carefully and holistically designed to allow for sustainable economic, social and environmental development while safeguarding for respective risks. The second is the relevance of a resilient Internet for AI and AI governance frameworks that consider existing internet governance mechanisms and institutions. In this regard, governance frameworks are necessary to guide development of applications, regulate the use of algorithms and implement AI systems based on the fundamental principles of safety and trust. A first step in this direction is an adequate assessment of policy and legislation frameworks, to help direct the vast potential of AI towards the highest benefit for economy, environment and society. Another could be brainstorming ideas toward guidelines foreseen possible AI consequences or red line uses. Turning to a more comparative, global scale, we face further governance challenges due to differing socioeconomic realities and regulatory approaches to these problems. The knowledge intensive development of AI-technologies may favor countries that are already focusing on technologically advanced sectors, which will perpetuate inequality.

On a policy level, actions and decisions regarding artificial intelligence in one country or region could adversely affect others very quickly. We are seeing this already playing out, where regulatory approaches vary tremendously concerning requirements on risk assessment, data protection and privacy or transparency of AI applications. Therefore, international cooperation is essential to establish common sets of values and standards for the development of AI. This may be achieved through multilateral fora, e.g. IGF or the Global Partnership on AI (GPAI), or through bilateral formats, such as the International Digital Dialogues of the German Government, which it conducts with Brazil, India, and Mexico amongst other countries. Guided by a set of policy questions, this session unpacks political, legal and philosophical dimensions at the interface of AI and sustainable development.

The session aims to trigger discussions to advance a more concrete, genuinely global, and multistakeholder agenda over AI and sustainable development. Therefore, it will critically assess the benefits and threats of the emerging technology for society, environment and the economy. In addition, it seeks to display what tools are available for policy makers to address these challenges, sketching out policy pathways for adequate framework conditions.

Expected Outcomes

The session aims to achieve three main outcomes: (1) to raise further awareness about the nexus of AI and sustainable development, (2) to trigger ideas of AI governance mechanism and possible concrete steps towards unleashing its potential for sustainable development, and (3) to gather information through the polls and the Q&A to frame the debate over the topic. The results of the discussion will be included into the framework of the International Digital Dialogues between Germany and countries such as Brazil, Mexico, India or Japan. The topic of common framework conditions in the realm of AI is a long-standing topic of the Work Plan, which was jointly developed by both government after consultations in multistakeholder rounds. The results will also inform the work of the Digital Transformation Centers, a network advising governments and implementing digital transformation projects in more than 16 countries of the Global South.


Hybrid Format: - How will you facilitate interaction between onsite and online speakers and attendees? The session will facilitate interaction between the onsite and online speakers and audience through active moderation. The session will include online panellists and the organizers plan to have both an onsite and online moderator specifically to engage with both communities adequately. - How will you design the session to ensure the best possible experience for online and onsite participants? Besides making sure that questions will be addressed from the audience in live and the chat, we plan to use interactive tools, such as mentimeter, so that the entire audience interacts online to some extent. This allows for active participation besides asking question. Also, it balances the engagement between onsite, where the session happens, and online, where one part of the audience interaction happens. - Please note any complementary online tools/platforms you plan to use to increase participation and interaction during the session. Audience interaction tools, such as Wisembly or Mentimeter to do quick surveys, create word clouds to steer the discussion.


Online Participation

Usage of IGF Official Tool.