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Ensuring transparency, ethical and scientific integrity, civil society participation and protection of fundamental rights in the projects of the SEDIA

H.E. Ms. Nadia Calviño First Vice-President and Minister for Economic Affairs and Digital Transformation


Ms. Carme Artigas Brugal Secretary of Office of Digitalisation and Artificial Intelligence (SEDIA),

We, AlgoRace, Algorights, y DigitalFems are writing to draw your attention to our serious concerns about the recently announced agreement to locate ADIA Lab’s headquarters in Granada (Spain).

This letter, which has been endorsed by several organisations working for the digital and fundamental rights of individuals at national and international level, aims to detail the series of shortcomings and problems we find with the agreement signed with an independent entity from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) by SEDIA:

(1) According to Amnesty International‘s annual report, the UAE government has continued to commit «serious human rights violations, including arbitrary detention, cruel and inhuman treatment in custody, suppression of freedom of expression and violation of the right to privacy


a.  UAE’s government arbitrarily detains its citizenship, as well as migrants for political reasons.

b.  There have been known flagrant cases of cruel and degrading treatment in its prisons, such as, for example, holding prison inmates after they have served their sentences.

c.  The government continues to exercise control over freedom of expression. According to Amnesty International’s report, 26 peaceful demonstrators remain in prison for criticisms of the government.

d.  Cases of lack of health rights were documented during the country’s vaccination programme for persons with expired documents.

e.  The UAE continues to perform poorly in the face of the climate crisis. It has acted against the progressive cutback of oil production.

f.   It is a country that continues to execute migrants through the death penalty.

g.  It continues to perpetuate the conflict in Yemen through arms trafficking.

h.  It continued to be involved in the conflict in Libya.

(2) Other organisations such as Human Rights Watch have also denounced other violations such as:

a.  The use of surveillance technologies such as facial recognition in public spaces, a measure that is going to be banned in the framework of EU Member States with the new regulation on AI and that it has also been endorsed by civil society organizations through letters and positions.

b.  The use of Israeli technology such as spyware to collect information on journalists, activists and world leaders.

c.  The UAE prevented representatives of international human rights organisations and UN experts from carrying out investigations in the country and visiting prisons and detention centres in the country.

d.  The UAE prevented representatives of international human rights organisations and UN experts from conducting investigations in the country and visiting prisons and detention centres.

e.  The UAE continues to repeatedly violate the rights of women and LGTBIQA+ subjects.

(3) Since the 5 published lines of research will be related to the use of interpretable and reliable AI techniques to improve decision making, as well as the proposal of public policies, we state that:

a.  There is a need to establish how to prioritise the ethics and protection of human rights in the projects that are carried out, as well as the research staff that are hired both in Spain and in the UAE.

b.  Given that one of the lines of research is the «economic modelling of climate change and its mitigation policies«, we are concerned about the independence of this collaboration, given that fossil fuel is the main source of income for the UAE’s economy, as well as being the main cause of global warming, according to IPCC reports.

c.  Last but not least, there is a need for transparency, interpretability and trust in the funding received. It is necessary to document through which mechanisms the independence of the investigations will be guaranteed, as well as how the budget of such a center will be allocated.

(4) Given that direct collaborations will be carried out with the University of Granada, we find the need to establish under which framework and guidelines of transparency, ethics and scientific integrity these projects and collaboration will be carried out due to the fact that in this academic institution, cases of sexual and mental harassment have been reported by students and researchers, but there has been no response from this institution and its governing bodies. Likewise, the lack of ethical and scientific integrity of some of its top public and scientific representatives has also been exposed.

Given the future presidency of the European Council by the Spanish government and the concerns described in this letter, we, the undersigned organisations, request to SEDIA the following demands:

(1) A meeting with civil society to clarify our concerns and discuss how SEDIA is going to guarantee the protection of human rights with this collaboration and what mechanisms of collaboration with civil society are foreseen in the execution of this collaboration.

(2) Through an exercise in accountability and transparency, publish public accounts that show the public how the 5 million euros (out of 13 million euros) that this investment will cost will be spent.

(3) The signing of a public document by SEDIA and the research staff of this collaboration declaring their scientific and ethical integrity, as well as the protection of fundamental rights in the projects carried out and the mechanisms foreseen for evaluating the human rights impact of the research.

AlgoRace, Algorights, y DigitalFems

This letter is open for endorsement. If your organization wishes to sign, you can do so by clicking here.

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