AI & humanitarian action: Raising the standards?


  • Michalina Nadolna Peeters


  • Aaron Martin
  • Xabier Lareo López de Vergara
  • Júlia Zomignani Barboza
  • Catherine Lennman

Organisation: Brussels Privacy Hub

Room: Online 1

Timing: 10:30 - 11:45 on 29 January 2021

The humanitarian sector is, like many, exploring how to use AI to do things better, while also ‘doing no harm’. Uses of AI in the humanitarian field range from detecting and evaluating the need of aid to helping in its delivery, and can emerge in complex realities in which different interests coalesce – e. g. related to security, or border control. As those benefiting from the work of humanitarian actors are frequently vulnerable populations, potentially targeted by a multitude of harmful actors, the stakes of mishandling their data, or making wrong decisions based on AI, can have consequences that go much beyond the usual risks in the digital realm. These issues demand a constant reflection on how to make sure that the potential benefits of using AI in humanitarian action are not outweighed by risks; in other terms, how to make sure that AI in humanitarian action is fully compatible with humanitarian goals.

• Which are the most pressing challenges and main opportunities of AI in humanitarian action?
• What are the implications of partnerships between humanitarian organisations and public and private actors to develop and deploy AI in the humanitarian sector?
• How to reconcile technical standards and data protection law with the humanitarian principles that humanitarian organisations are bound to respect, especially the principle of do no harm?
• How are the (best) practices developed in the humanitarian field informing data-driven Covid-19 responses?


Michalina Nadolna Peeters

LSTS, Vrije Universiteit Brussel (BE)

Michalina Nadolna Peeters is a PhD fellow at the LSTS (VUB). She is part of the ALTEP DP project, and focuses her research on private enforcement of the GDPR in cross-border cases, with particular attention to conflict-of-law aspects. Michalina holds a Master of Laws from Adam Mickiewicz University and an LL.M. in European Law from the College of Europe. At present, she is also an advocate in training at the Warsaw Bar Association. Michalina has worked in-house and in law firms specialising in ICT and data protection law both in Poland and Belgium. She has also gained experience in the public sector during her engagements at the US Congress, Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the European Commission’s DG CNECT.


Aaron Martin

Tilburg Institute for Law, Technology & Society (NL)

Aaron is a Postdoctoral Researcher at the Tilburg Institute for Law, Technology, and Society (TILT), where he focuses on humanitarian data governance within the Global Data Justice project. Prior to joining TILT, he worked in the financial services sector in the area of technology regulation. He has also worked in technology policy roles at the OECD, European Commission, and Vodafone Group.

Xabier Lareo López de Vergara


Júlia Zomignani Barboza


After graduating in law in Brazil and completing a master's degree in Geneva, Júlia worked in multiple not for profit organisations before becoming a PhD candidate at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel in October 2018. While developing her research on undesirable but unreturnable migrants, she contributes to multiple research projects. She was involved in the development of the second edition of the ICRC and Brussels Privacy Hub Handbook on Data Protection in Humanitarian Action and currently works on the Horizon 2020 Rebuild project as well as manages FRC’s role as national FRANET contractor.

Catherine Lennman