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Centre on Artificial Intelligence and Robotics

Centre on Artificial Intelligence and Robotics

Artificial Intelligence (AI) and robotics have undergone a renaissance in recent years, edging their way from the realms of science fiction and an obscure field of engineering and computer science into the very functioning of modern society. A massive growth in computational power and an increasing abundance of data have been at the core of this, significantly improving capabilities and broadening the range of their real-world application. At the same time, technology giants and Governments have begun to increasingly invest in AI and robotics, in the hopes of enhancing efficiency, optimizing resource allocation, reducing costs, and creating new revenue opportunities.

AI and Robotics for Crime Prevention, Criminal Justice, Law Enforcement & National Security

Crime prevention, criminal justice, as well as law enforcement and national security are areas where AI and robotics have the potential to compliment or even greatly enhance traditional techniques. For instance, AI could be used to monitor the changing landscape of criminal and terrorist networks; efficiently analyse threat data and historical information and create hypotheses for commission of future criminal or terrorist acts. Robotics, on the other hand, could be used to gather actionable data and handle situations that may be too dull, dirty or dangerous for human counterparts, for example, responding to bomb threats.

Masked behind these benefits however, are a range social, ethical and legal issues that have yet to be fully explored and analysed, which could even jeopardise trust and belief in AI and robotics as agents for positive change. For instance, not only do these technologies themselves present an inherent potential for physical harm to humans, there are concerns surrounding the autonomous use of force, algorithmic bias and black boxes in decision-making systems, data collection and violations of the right to privacy, and, of course, the ever-present risk that these technologies may be misused by criminals or terrorist organizations. Indeed, with every new technology comes vulnerability to new forms of crime and threats to security. There is, furthermore, concern that AI-enabled automation may result in the widespread displacement of workers and usher in social instability through massive unmanaged migration and increased crime rates, with developing countries and economies in transition standing to bear the brunt of the disruption.

In spite of the widespread and rapid innovation that is taking place in the field of AI and robotics, there is no dedicated international discussion on the risks and benefits from a law enforcement and national security perspective. Potential best practices for the application of AI and robotics to the field of law enforcement and national security or the adequacy existing policies or legal frameworks to address the potential associated risks and prepare against criminal or terrorist misuse remain fringe issues, confined to the realms of science fiction.

UNICRI Centre for AI and Robotics

In early 2015, UNICRI launched its programme on artificial intelligence and robotics, and with support of the Municipality of the Hague and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands UNICRI signed the host country agreement for the opening of its Centre for Artificial Intelligence and Robotics in The Hague, the Netherlands, in September 2017. This Centre is dedicated to understanding and addressing the risks and benefits of AI and robotics from the perspective of crime and security through awareness-raising, education, exchange of information, and harmonization of stakeholders. To this end, UNICRI has developed a large international network of stakeholders with whom it collaborates, including the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL), the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), the Foundation for Responsible Robotics, the World Economic Forum, Centre for Future Intelligence (CFI) and many more.

The Centre seeks to enhance understanding of the risk-benefit duality of artificial intelligence and robotics through improved coordination, knowledge collection and dissemination, awareness-raising and outreach activities. Utilizing knowledge and information of experts in the field to educate and inform stakeholders, particularly policy makers, the Centre will advocate to advance the discussion on artificial intelligence and robotics governance.

The primary target group to achieve the objectives will consist of policy makers and other governmental officials of UN member states. To this end, the Centre will also engage other stakeholders throughout the implementation process, including national and international organizations, private sector entities, academia and other technical practitioners. Only by incorporating a balanced and comprehensive approach to both the community and the topic can the international community resolve the risks and challenges presented.


  • Performance of a risk assessment and stakeholder mapping and analysis. 
  • Implementation of training and mentoring programmes.
  • Contributing to the UN Sustainable Development Goals by facilitating exchange of technology and by orienting policies to promote security and development.
  • Convening of expert meetings. 
  • Organization of awareness-raising workshops targeting policy makers and organization of international conferences