Building peace in the minds of men and women

UNESCO and OHCHR strengthen cooperation to advance human rights

22 November 2019

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© UNESCO/C. Alix

A fast changing world requires quick, but meaningful responses to challenges that can tear at the fabric of our communities. In order to ensure that human rights are respected and protected, UNESCO Director General Audrey Azoulay and Michelle Bachelet, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, today signed a new memorandum of understanding  to promote joint action for advancing human rights.

At a time when human dignity, equality and justice are under attack, UNESCO and OHCHR reaffirm their resolve to work closer together towards a stronger implementation of human rights in response to new challenges worldwide,” said Ms. Azoulay following the signing.

The agreement focuses on emerging trends and new fields of human rights today, especially human rights-based responses to new scientific and technological developments, notably on artificial intelligence. This comes at a time when UNESCO Member states are expected to launch the elaboration of a normative instrument on the ethics of artificial intelligence upon its conclusion of its General Conference on 27 November. UNESCO and OHCHR will also strengthen their work tackling racist propaganda and hate speech online and offline, linked to the UN Strategy and Plan of Action on Hate Speech (2019).

Looking ahead to the anticipated development of new standard setting frameworks for AI at UNESCO, Ms. Bachelet sees opportunities emerging from this new agreement. “Taking these steps will guide technology for all the good it can produce,” she says, “but we can avoid the misuse in terms of hate speech, and also in terms of harassing journalists, human rights defenders or critics.”

This new cooperation also identifies areas of convergence across the mandate of UNESCO. These include the advancement of the right to education, the right to take part in cultural life; the right to enjoy the benefits of scientific progress and its applications and the right to water and sanitation. It also includes the right to freedom of expression and access to information, in line with the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity spearheaded by UNESCO.