UNESCO Calls on Governments to Implement Global Ethical Framework on Artificial Intelligence Without Delay

Ms Audrey Azoulay
UNESCO’s Director-General

Following calls by over 1,000 tech workers for a pause in the training of the most powerful Artificial Intelligence (AI) systems, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has called on countries to fully implement its Recommendation on the Ethics of Artificial Intelligence immediately.

The global normative framework was unanimously adopted in November 2021 by the 193 Member States at UNESCO’s General Conference as the very first global standard-setting instrument on the subject.

The framework seeks to promote and protect human rights and human dignity and is designed as an ethical guiding compass and a global normative bedrock which will enable the building of strong respect for the rule of law in the digital world.

UNESCO’s Director-General, MsAudrey Azoulay, said: “The world needs stronger ethical rules for artificial intelligence: this is the challenge of our time. UNESCO’s Recommendation on the ethics of AI sets the appropriate normative framework. Our Member States all endorsed this Recommendation in November 2021. It is high time to implement the strategies and regulations at national level. We have to walk the talk and ensure we deliver on the Recommendation’s objectives.”

UNESCO’s Recommendation on the Ethics of Artificial Intelligence is the first global framework for the ethical use of artificial intelligence.

It guides countries on how to maximize the benefits of AI and reduce the risks it entails; contains values and principles as well as detailed policy recommendations in all relevant areas.

UNESCO said it was concerned by many of the ethical issues raised by these innovations, particularly discrimination and stereotyping, including the issue of gender inequality, as well as the fight against disinformation, the right to privacy, the protection of personal data, and human and environmental rights.

According to UNESCO, “Industry self-regulation is clearly not sufficient to avoid these ethical harms, which is why the Recommendation provides the tools to ensure that AI developments abide by the rule of law, avoiding harm, and ensuring that when harm is done, accountability and redressal mechanisms are at hand for those affected.”

UNESCO’s Recommendation places a Readiness Assessment tool at the core of its guidance to Member States and the tool enables countries to ascertain the competencies and skills required in the workforce to ensure robust regulation of the artificial intelligence sector.

It also provides that the States report regularly on their progress and their practices in the field of artificial intelligence, particularly by submitting a periodic report every four years.

UNESCO said to date, more than 40 countries in all regions of the world were already working with it to develop AI checks and balances at the national level, building on the Recommendation.

It called on all countries to join the movement it is leading to build an ethical AI, adding that a progress report will be presented at the UNESCO Global Forum on the Ethics of Artificial Intelligence scheduled to take place in Slovenia in December 2023.