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Inklings | Who’s asking for Global South views on AI?

Notes and musings on how aid works, from The New Humanitarian’s policy editors.

The header image for the Inkling's newsletter entry of 29 May, 2024. On the top left you see Inklings written in a serif font with an ink bleed effect and underlined with a burgundy color line. On the bottom right we see a list of the main topic: Who’s asking for Global South views on AI? 

This is another edition of Inklings, which explores all things aid and aid-adjacent unfolding in humanitarian hubs, on the front lines of emergency response, or in the virtual corners of online aid punditry.

It’s also available as an email newsletter. Subscribe here.

Today: AI partners, Gaza truck crossings, and the Red Cross founders’ colonising history.

On the radar|

AI: Will communities in the Global South have a say in how artificial intelligence is developed and used? Care International UK says it’s conducting research that may help civil society shape the development of AI. Its choice in partners may raise eyebrows: Care is working with Accenture, the US multinational with fingers in everything from tech and taxes to borders and policing.

  • The critiques: A pair of recent opinion pieces underscore differing concerns. Is a multinational giant best placed to help solicit views, especially when there’s a need to diversify partnerships with AI and tech experts in the Global South? Then there’s Accenture itself: its businesses include biometric surveillance, work with the US military, predictive policing, cyber defence, prisons, and border control. As this analysis argued, “corporations aren’t driven by the same principles that guide humanitarians” – and the sector has few guidelines to ensure these differences are compatible with humanitarian work.
  • What Care says: “As it is private sector companies who are building AI, it’s critical to engage with them on these issues. While this research is limited, we see it as a small contribution to ongoing efforts by different actors to increase Global South participation in AI decision-making,” a Care spokesperson said in an emailed response. “We would also encourage other donors to make additional funding available for research on the impact of new technologies, including AI.” The response did not address questions about the alignment of Care and Accenture’s principles.

AI for bad? The Guardian had this wild account of a “soul-destroying day” spent at an AI conference sponsored by Palantir, the data mining firm and World Food Programme partner. There’s also a cameo from the ICRC.

AI for good? Geneva plays host to the UN-backed AI for Good summit from 30-31 May. So-called “godfather of AI” Geoffrey Hinton is on the invite list, as is OpenAI’s Sam Altman (both are scheduled to present remotely). The big draw this year is a press conference “showcasing mind-controlled exoskeletons and other AI-powered brain-machine interface technology”.

Data points|

The number of trucks carting aid into Gaza has been squashed back to a trickle as Israel’s assault on Rafah continues.

This chart shows the number of trucks entering Gaza via Kerem Shalom and Rafah crossings since mid-March, as tallied by the UN:

Shipments also enter from elsewhere, including via the controversial (and fragile) floating pier, but these have “largely amounted to cosmetic changes”, 20 aid groups warned. Médecins Sans Frontières, for example, said it hasn’t been able to get supplies into Gaza since 6 May.

The International Criminal Court’s prosecutor’s office says Israel’s aid blockages are “part of a common plan to use starvation as a method of war” – a war crime under international law, and part of the grounds to pursue arrest warrants for Israeli leaders.

End quote|

“They were big colonisers.”

Henry Dunant and Gustave Moynier were humanitarian icons and, as historian Fabio Rossinelli notes, “big colonisers”.

Geneva’s elite, including the founders of the Red Cross movement, actively supported, financed, and benefited from violent colonialism.

A new exhibition at the Musée d’Ethnographie de Genève spotlights the contradictions in Geneva’s early humanitarian origin story – and its reality as an enabler for colonisation and mass atrocity crimes.

Contributor Paula Dupraz-Dobias has the story on Swissinfo, which includes a chat with Rossinelli, one of the exhibit’s researchers.

Have any tips, recommendations, or indecipherable acronyms to share with the Inklings newsletter? Get in touch: [email protected]

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