UNESCO Recommendation ON AI ETHICS

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Date and Time


April 18, 2024 9:00 am to 10:00 am EDT (UTC-5)  in Washington DC and Online




Register here. https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_eR7MmrQkRmOSWVILUw0cfQ#/registration




The UNESCO Recommendation on AI Ethics: The First Global Framework for AI Governance 


The rapid rise in artificial intelligence (AI) has created many opportunities globally, from facilitating healthcare diagnoses to enabling human connections through social media and creating labour efficiencies through automated tasks.


However, these rapid changes also raise profound ethical concerns. These arise from the potential AI systems have to embed biases, contribute to climate degradation, threaten human rights and more. Such risks associated with AI have already begun to compound on top of existing inequalities, resulting in further harm to already marginalised groups.


In no other field is the ethical compass more relevant than in artificial intelligence. These general-purpose technologies are re-shaping the way we work, interact, and live. The world is set to change at a pace not seen since the deployment of the printing press six centuries ago. AI technology brings major benefits in many areas, but without the ethical guardrails, it risks reproducing real world biases and discrimination, fueling divisions and threatening fundamental human rights and freedoms.


UNESCO produced the first-ever global standard on AI ethics – the ‘Recommendation on the Ethics of Artificial Intelligence’ in November 2021. This framework was adopted by all 193 Member States.


The protection of human rights and dignity is the cornerstone of the Recommendation, based on the advancement of fundamental principles such as transparency and fairness, always remembering the importance of human oversight of AI systems.


However, what makes the Recommendation exceptionally applicable are its extensive Policy Action Areas, which allow policymakers to translate the core values and principles into action with respect to data governance, environment and ecosystems, gender, education and research, and health and social wellbeing, among many other spheres.

In the annual report on AI Policies and practices around the world, the Center for AI and Digital Policy rates and ranks countries based in part, on their support for the UNESCO Recommendation on AI Ethics and their implementation of the UNESCO Recommendation. Each year a CAIDP research team looks closely at a country's AI policies and practices and answers two questions:

- Has the country endorsed the UNESCO Recommendation on AI Ethics?

- Is the country implementing the UNESCO Recommendation on the Ethics of AI?


As CAIDP explains:

"Endorsement alone of the UNESCO Recommendation is not sufficient to determine a country’s AI practices. UNESCO itself has begun a process to track implementation of the Recommendation, but the reporting to date is not yet available and is in its infancy. We begin our analysis of implementation with UNESCO documents pertaining to planned partnerships and the 2022 UNESCO AI Needs Assessment Survey in Africa. However, we deepened the analysis by searching for statements made by countries pledging their commitment to implement the UNESCO Recommendation. We tracked preliminary announcements regarding implementation and monitoring mechanisms which shall be put into place. We then look to other sources, including regional organizations documents, news articles and NGO reports, to assess implementation.


"Determinations in this category show that some countries have called attention to their efforts to implement the UNESCO Recommendation and help other countries to implement it. We also started to identify other countries which have done so in practice without explicit references to the Recommendation. We will proceed in the future with identifying national projects that implement the UNESCO Recommendation, based on future reporting from the UNESCO, but information is often difficult to find at this stage and not made publicly available yet. In some instances, we were able to acknowledge partial implementation (P). We have also chosen to recognize the leading role of a few countries in the development and implementation of the UNESCO Recommendation (Y)."


Merve Hickok is President and Research Director the Center for AI and Digital Policy, an independent non-profit education organization, incorporated in Washington, DC. CAIDP's mission is to ensure that AI and digital policies promote a better society, more fair, more just, and more accountable – a world where technology promotes broad social inclusion based on fundamental rights, democratic institutions, and the rule of law.


Merve Hickok is the founder of AIethicist.org. She is a globally renowned expert on AI policy, ethics and governance. Her contributions and perspective have featured in the Guardian, CNN, Forbes, Bloomberg, Wired, Scientific American, Politico, Protocol, Vox, The Economist and S&P. Her research, training and consulting work focuses on the impact of AI systems on individuals, society, public and private organizations – with a particular focus on fundamental rights, democratic values, and social justice.


At University of Michigan, Merve is a lecturer at School of Information, Responsible Data and AI Advisor at Michigan Institute for Data Science, and affiliated faculty at Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy (Science, Technology, and Public Policy Program).


Merve has provided testimony to the US Congress, State of California Civil Rights Office, New York City Department of Consumer and Worker Protection, Detroit City Council, and many global organizations interested in AI policy and ethics.


Merve also works with several non-profit organizations globally to advance both the academic and professional research in this field for underrepresented groups. She has been recognized by a number of organizations – most recently as one of the 100 Brilliant Women in AI Ethics™ – 2021, and as Runner-up for Responsible AI Leader of the Year – 2022 (Women in AI).