Artificial intelligence (AI) is a frontline technology with profound implications for human beings, cultures, societies and the environment. AI has the potential to be our ally in the struggle for a more equitable, fair, and sustainable future. The unprecedented analytical capacity of this technology has helped improve decision-making in all domains of life and has been critical in global efforts to address the COVID-19 pandemic by accelerating the discovery of the vaccines. However, AI technologies also pose significant risks and challenges, including deepen existing divides, exacerbate gender disparities, and infringe on human rights and fundamental freedoms.
UNESCO and the EU are at the forefront of establishing the normative frameworks for these technologies. Last year, UNESCO published the Recommendation on the Ethics of AI – the first global normative instrument in this field – which adopted by the 193 Member States in November 2021. In the same year, the European Commission proposed a Regulation laying down harmonized rules for AI (Artificial Intelligence Act). The regulation is currently undergoing the EU legislative procedure, and substantive progress has been made towards the adoption of the Digital Services Act and Digital Markets Act.
The First Global Forum on the Ethics of AI will mark an important milestone in the building of a robust international coalition towards ensuring the ethical development and use of AI worldwide. The Forum will comprise three major components:
- Ethical Development and Use of AI in the EU: reinforcing national regulatory frameworks and institutions. This session will explore the reform priorities for more effective governance at the national level, examine the complementarities of UNESCO’s Recommendation and the emerging EU legal framework and identify the possibilities for UNESCO-EU partnership over domestic reform agendas on AI governance.
- Global Collaboration between EU and UNESCO for the Implementation of the Recommendation on the Ethics of AI: This session will feature digital ministers from across the world, including Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, and Asia and the Pacific. These ministers will lead a discussion on the opportunities presented by the promotion of AI technologies globally, and the challenges of building ethical safeguards to ensure their beneficial use. This section of the Global Forum will be underpinned by the collaboration that is being discussed between the European Commission (INTPA) and the Social and Human Sciences at UNESCO for the EU to support their efforts, particularly in Africa, to implement the Recommendation.
- Special Topics: parallel sessions will be dedicated to the exploration of the state of AI from different angles — Gender Equality, Environmental Protection, Readiness and Ethical Impact Assessments, Transparency and Non-discrimination.
The Forum will take stock of the national efforts to promote the ethical development and use of AI and identify the best regulatory practices and institutional settings to ensure the ethical development of these technologies. Invited experts will analyse how the UNESCO Recommendation can support the EU’s efforts to advance value-based technological development, bringing the European perspective to a global level. The strong sense of ownership of UNESCO’s Recommendation by all countries, including the developing ones, will ensure a high level of engagement.
At the EU level, the Global Forum will allow the EU Member States to explore, based on the Recommendation, the best emergent regulatory practices for maximising the positive social and economic of the rapid advancements in AI-driven technologies. The Forum will feature discussions on the best institutional settings, to allow the European countries at the frontier of AI governance to share key lessons and takeaways. The event can also serve as a forum for identifying the best policies and institutional options to advance the implementation of the Recommendation. Separately, speakers will share their perspectives on how to ensure that the advancements in new technologies do not create new forms of exclusion and inequalities or compound previously existing ones, especially in relation to gender. Following this, agreed-upon policy and institutional reforms can be undertaken with the engagement of the European semester and the Technical Support Unit, with UNESCO serving as a partner in the implementation.
At the global level, the Forum will advance the European leadership: under the Czech Presidency of the Council of the EU, to measure the progress made on the Recommendation, and by working with countries outside the EU for capacity-building to implement the instrument. The Forum will also provide a setting to track the progress being made on the application of the specific tools developed under the Recommendation, such as the Ethical Impact Assessment and the Readiness Assessment.