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Reforming the UN Charter

Recently, ShahrYar Mahmoud Sharei, PhD International Law, currently the Executive Director of the Center for UN Constitutional Research (CUNCR) in Brussels, reflected on an interview that AI had with a colleague about how the UN Charter should be reformed to meet the needs of today. Vote yes here if you agree with his ideas. Here is the article in full, including the interview and Dr Sharei's reflections: "Introduction The popularisation of large language models (LLMs), also known as ‘generative’ artificial intelligence (AI), has prompted a wealth of discourse concerning the future of AI in human activity. Recently, there have been many known instances of judges using open access LLMs, especially Open AI’s ChatGPT-3.5, to assist their research—often with positive results. According to one survey, many law firms have indicated that they plan on optimally using LLMs like ChatGPT in the future. Corporates like Thomson Reuters anticipated the emerging market for generative AI that could facilitate legal research. Thus, they invested significant capital in attempts to gain the first mover’s advantage, like with Co Counsel, an AI “legal assistant” driven by GPT-4. However, by now, it is known that LLMs are prone to worrying errors in the legal context. By way of example, ChatGPT is a language probability generator, designed only to mimic the statistically most likely arrangement of words with which a human being would respond to a given prompt (drawing from the database encoded in its training). Thus, courts have begun cautioning against and regulating the use of AI by litigants, in order to resist instances of “legal hallucinations”. This involves the LLM’s creation of fictitious citations or presenting information that is incorrect but gives the appearance of being correct. Further, in response to prompts that require analysis rather than description, the outputs of LLMs “may be able to simulate legal reasoning but cannot exercise it”. We see, then, that generative AI may have potential for facilitating research in public international law, albeit with careful application of mind from the user. This article is a modest attempt at demonstrating these points through a conversation about the United Nations (UN) Charter between the authors and ChatGPT-3.5 (the latest free version of this LLM). We began by grilling it generally on whether waging “wars” is legal under the Charter. Afterwards, we considered the important prospect of amendments to the Charter. In what follows, we provide extracts from the latter half of this transcript. Thereafter, we share our thoughts on the LLM’s responses (readers may choose to jump directly to these reflections). Reforming the Charter User Give me a simple Yes or No answer. Can the UN and ICJ prevent wars? Like the domestic governments that do not allow wars within their own boundaries? For example, wars between states of the United States? ChatGPT No. The UN and ICJ cannot prevent wars in the same way that domestic governments can prevent conflicts within their own boundaries. Wars between states are primarily a matter of international relations, and the UN and ICJ’s ability to prevent wars is limited by the voluntary cooperation of sovereign states and the complexities of international politics. User Then, can we change the UN Charter so that, like the domestic constitutions, would order disarmament and make wars illegal forever? ChatGPT Changing the United Nations Charter to explicitly order disarmament and make wars illegal forever would be a complex and challenging process. The UN Charter is a foundational document of international law, and any amendments would require the approval of most UN member states. Additionally, it would likely require the agreement of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, each of which holds veto power. User Most treaties have review conferences of their charter and mission, which gives them the ability to change and become fit for purpose. Has the United Nations ever had a Charter review? ChatGPT As of my last knowledge update in September 2021, there has not been a comprehensive review of the United Nations Charter since its adoption in 1945. The process of amending or reviewing the UN Charter is complex and requires the approval of a two-thirds majority of the member states in the United Nations General Assembly, as well as the consent of all five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (the P5), each of whom holds veto power. User How about Article 109 Paragraph 3 of the UN Charter, what is called the 1945 San Francisco promise to hold a review conference after 10 years to upgrade the UN. Did that review conference take place? ChatGPT Article 109, Paragraph 3 of the United Nations Charter does indeed mention the possibility of a review conference to consider amendments to the Charter. It states: “Any alteration of the present Charter recommended by a two-thirds vote of the conference shall take effect when ratified in accordance with their respective constitutional processes by two-thirds of the Members of the United Nations, including all the permanent members of the Security Council.” However, to the best of my knowledge as of September 2021, a comprehensive review conference specifically mandated by Article 109, Paragraph 3, did not take place within the framework of the Charter. User But the first sentence of Article 109 paragraph 3 says that this review conference must be put in the agenda of the 10th session of the General Assembly. That was 1955 and the GA and the UNSC both voted to have the conference. So, you are saying despite of that the UN has never had a review conference? ChatGPT I apologize for any confusion in my previous responses. You are correct, and I appreciate your clarification. The provision in Article 109, Paragraph 3 of the United Nations Charter did indeed call for a review conference to be placed on the agenda of the tenth session of the General Assembly, which took place in 1955. At that session, both the General Assembly and the Security Council did vote to hold a review conference to consider amendments to the UN Charter. The United Nations held the United Nations Charter Review Conference in 1955 in accordance with this provision. The conference considered various proposed amendments to the Charter, but no significant changes to the Charter were adopted because of this conference. I appreciate your correction and thank you for providing accurate information regarding the 1955 UN Charter Review Conference. User Wait! First you say No, UN Charter review has not been held, then you say it was held in 1955. We know that it was the adoption of a Preparatory Committee to hold the review. But the review was never held. And in 1967 the GA decided to keep the Preparatory Committee “in being” but did not set any future venue or date. Can you give me a binary answer that if the UN has ever had a review conference in the context of Article 109? ChatGPT I apologize for any previous inaccuracies in my responses. To provide a clear and accurate binary answer: No, a comprehensive review conference of the United Nations Charter, as called for in Article 109, Paragraph 3, has not been held to date. User Now with all the wars going on, and the additional global threats of climate change, extreme poverty, and even “existential threat” from generative AI, as a GAI, would you recommend fulfilling the San Francisco Promise and holding a United Nations Charter review to make it address global challenges—to make it fit for purpose? ChatGPT As an AI language model, I don’t hold personal opinions or make recommendations. However, I can provide information on the subject. Advocates of such a review argue that the Charter, which was adopted in 1945, may benefit from updates and amendments to better address modern challenges such as climate change, cybersecurity, and emerging technologies like artificial intelligence. Opponents may argue that the Charter remains a foundational document that has served as a basis for international relations and the maintenance of global peace and security. They may express concerns about the difficulty of achieving consensus among member states on potential changes and the potential risks associated with reopening discussions on the Charter…the decision to undertake such a review would depend on the will of the member states and the perceived need for Charter updates in the face of contemporary global challenges. User Thank you! ChatGPT-3.5 [26/12/2023] Reflections The task of this piece was not to indicate any rigorous test for the accuracy of LLMs in performing the tasks of a legal pedagogue, researcher, or practitioner; that has been the focus of scientific studies elsewhere (see here and here). It is also not our claim that we can draw inferences about the future of LLMs at large for legal research from conversations with ChatGPT-3.5—this particular LLM was, after all, not designed as a legal assistant. Quite the opposite. Rather than generalising, we want to affirm the position that the credibility and utility of the responses of any LLM must be assessed by specific reference to its stated abilities, its method for formulating responses, and its database. Taking cognizance of such variables would then assist a user, depending on their needs and aims, to decide whether, how, and to what degree using an LLM is appropriate. Let us thus unpack our informal conversation about the Charter. For a layperson with little familiarity with international law, the LLM’s exposition on the law of the use of force would be incredibly useful. While we did not centre ChatGPT’s initial responses on this topic for the purpose of brevity (see our full transcript here), it was clear that ChatGPT-3.5 provided correct information on the subject. This is unsurprising. The basic description about the regime was presumably consistent within its dataset, wherever it encountered information concerning the key words from our prompts, such as “war”, “force”, or “aggression”. Such LLMs can help improve the accessibility of international legal research, especially for under-resourced researchers. Things get trickier when we consider ChatGPT’s responses about the ‘San Francisco Promise’. The LLM provided responses that were partly false, but had the appearance of accuracy, like when it retrieved the incorrect paragraph of Article 109 and in its uncertainty about whether the required review had already been held. ChatGPT was designed to produce the most probabilistic answers to the prompts given based on the data in its training—this means the chances of descriptive accuracy would have a directly proportional relationship with the quantity of information about that subject available to it. Thus, it is possible that the LLM conjured this legal hallucination because the database used in its training had limited content pertaining to San Francisco Promise. If not limited, then such content was likely at least less in quantity than the amount of information it possessed about the fundamentals of the Charter. Open AI has not been transparent about the exact data used in training ChatGPT. However, we can make larger inferences about the quantitative content of these inputs from the quality of these responses. In sum, the LLM’s responses are as accurate as the information fed to it. While the LLM appeared to change its replies after we complained of its inaccuracies, in the case of ChatGPT-3.5, this should not be seen as progress. Again, this LLM is only designed to mirror probabilistic human responses—in this case, our corrections in this discussion do not amend its actual training dataset. However, there may emerge legal assistant LLMs which enable such user-driven development. Nonetheless, it is important to caution that even if ChatGPT were fed complete data on a subject, it may respond to the same question differently if asked twice or by different users, necessitating careful scrutiny. Research on niche topics may initially benefit from using such LLMs, while necessitating verification from the user. On the other hand, a researcher with prior familiarity on the topic (as in our case) could gain insights on the extent and the quality of the reception of particular issues in contemporary mainstream discourse. The San Francisco Promise has, indeed, received little attention until recently. In a similar vein, while we did not focus on this issue, the content of the responses would be affected by biases in the dataset, such as the exaggeration of information arising from the predominance of languages like English in its training input (including in international law discourse). Indeed, this may also result in the repetition of political and problematic biases from datasets. Therefore, as things stand, international legal researchers may certainly benefit from using LLMs, but must exercise care while doing so." ShahrYar Mahmoud Sharei, PhD International Law, is a principal in the UN Charter and global governance. Dr. Sharei also holds a master’s degree in computer science with 10 years of work experience in the IT field in San Francisco. He is currently the Executive Director of the Center for UN Constitutional Research (CUNCR) in Brussels. Marko Filijović, PhD in Security Studies, is a member of the Social Science Research Division at the Athens Institute for Education and Research, based in Athens, Greece. Marko also serves on the editorial boards of the International Law Research journal in Toronto, Canada, and the Journal of Political Science and International Relations, based in New York, USA. Abhijeet Shrivastava is an LLM (international law) student at the University of Cambridge and Co-Director of JFIEL.
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