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Good morning, this is Michelle. Artificial intelligence is rapidly advancing, and with it, calls for global regulation. Debates over what to do with this fast-evolving challenge will be at the epicentre of the WSIS Forum and the AI for Good Summit in Geneva this week.

On the health front, two years of negotiations for a global pandemic treaty hang in the balance as member states at the World Health Organization kick their annual gathering.

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Michelle Langrand


On our radar

Photo article

17 May 2024, North Rhine-Westphalia, Cologne: A person works at a computer with an illustrative image generated by artificial intelligence on the screen, showing code from various programming languages and a neural network diagram. (Keystone/DPA/Oliver Berg)

Countries grapple with shaping AI governance amid heightened global tensions. In less than four months, UN member states are set to adopt a political declaration meant to lay the tracks for the future of global governance of digital technologies and artificial intelligence. This week in Geneva, it will be the burning question at the World Society Information Summit (WSIS) Forum. But amid geopolitical tensions at historical levels and leading powers butting heads as they engage in an AI arms race, the prospects of any major political convergence are meagre. For observers who have become accustomed to the complex and entangled web that is digital governance, it may not be such a bad thing.

Geneva Solutions

What to watch this week

⚕️SHOWTIME. This week Geneva will become the must-go destination for global top guns in public health and anyone eager to influence them. With the fate of the future pandemic treaty on the balance, WHO chief Tedros Adhamon Ghebreyesus called the 77th session of the World Health Assembly “one of the most significant in our 76-year history”.

Genesis. In 2021, as Covid-19 dragged on, countries called for an accord to prepare for and respond to future pandemics, drawing upon any lessons learned since the deadly virus emerged, killing millions and setting back vulnerable economies and Sustainable Development Goals. The aim was to deliver a draft for approval by this year’s WHA.

What if…? Negotiators had been hoping that countries and the pharma sector will overcome deep divisions that set in as soon as the treaty’s timeline was agreed. Those have included how pathogens capable of unleashing pandemics should be handled as well as the One Health strategy that emphasises links between animals, humans and the environment for addressing outbreaks.

“We don’t want to stand so far behind the starting line,” deputy WHO director Mike Ryan said last week about global preparedness ahead of future pandemics.

After negotiators failed a last attempt at producing a finalised draft last Friday, options that have been floated include extending the talks this week, postponing them till later this year or even suspending the WHA, albeit not likely.

WHA(t) else? Held under the all-encompassing theme, All for Health, Health for All, the session will also discuss issues including improving maternal health and a draft climate and health resolution. Another key event will be an investment round for member states and other donors to fill funding gaps needed for the agency’s core work over the next four years.

🏝️STANDING GROUND. Ahead of what the World Meteorological Organization expects to be an intense hurricane season, the government of Antigua and Barbuda is hosting this week the Fourth Conference on Small Island Developing States.

Climate costs. The group, which acts as a negotiating block at climate talks, is among the most vulnerable to climate change. According to the International Monetary Fund, Hurricane Maria caused losses and damages in Dominica amounting to 226 per cent of its GDP. Barbados’ Prime Minister Mia Mottley has become a leading advocate of climate justice, with Avinash Persaud, her special climate envoy, stressing unfair interest rates for repaying debt after repeated disasters.

Plan. Resilient prosperity will be the theme of the meeting, with governments hoping to ignite awareness of needs including ensuring food security, a sustainable energy transition and water resource management, with the support of developed countries.

– Paula Dupraz-Dobias

In case you missed it

🍄NEW BIOPIRACY TREATY ADOPTED. Indigenous representatives celebrated on Friday after a deal to protect traditional knowledge and genetic resources from being misappropriated was finally reached. The treaty, agreed by more than 190 nations, will require patent filers to disclose the origins of the genetic sources used in their inventions as well as identify the indigenous peoples who contributed with knowledge.

📖 Read our past coverage: A new multilateral treaty takes root at WIPO to recognise traditional knowledge

Also on the agenda

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