UNESCO highlights the need for an ethical artificial intelligence at Council of Europe conference on AI and democracy


As part of the high-level conference on the impacts of artificial intelligence (AI) development on human rights, democracy and the rule of law, which took place on 26-27 February 2019 in Helsinki, Finland, UNESCO presented its work to promote a human-centred development and application of AI, in line with ethical principles.

Rapid technological advancements in AI are affecting all aspects of our lives and revolutionizing the ways we learn, work and communicate. Speaking at the conference, UNESCO’s Assistant Director-General for Communication and Information, Moez Chakchouk, highlighted the importance of addressing the challenges AI poses through a multi-stakeholder and interdisciplinary approach.

“UNESCO is uniquely positioned to foster a global multi-stakeholder dialogue on the opportunities and challenges related to AI, in the fields of education, science, culture, communication and information; as well as on the ethical implications of AI”, Chakchouk said during the session on AI and democracy.

He underlined UNESCO’s commitment to bringing stakeholders together to reflect upon the development of an international framework on AI, benefitting both developing and developed countries. Chakchouk also stressed the importance of empowering citizens with new digital skills, through education and media and information literacy, in order for everyone to reflect on the impact of AI and to harness its potential for sustainable development.

Through its intersectoral initiative on AI, UNESCO promotes a development and use of AI in line with the concept of Internet Universality, adopted by the Organization’s Member States in 2015. The Internet Universality principles – which advocate for an Internet that is based on human rights, open, accessible to all and nurtured by multi-stakeholder participation – can serve as a framework for AI to serve humanity as a whole.

On 4 March 2019, UNESCO will also hold a high-level conference titled “Principles for AI: Towards a Humanistic Approach?”, bringing together stakeholders from across the world to address the potential benefits and challenges of AI. Discussions will focus on the universality and ethical dimensions of AI, and on ways to ensure a human-centred and ethical AI through principles rooted in international cooperation.

UNESCO and the Council of Europe have developed a strong cooperation in the field of freedom of expression and the protection of human rights. UNESCO is also a participant in the meetings of the Committee of experts on human rights dimensions of automated data processing and different forms of artificial intelligence, set up by the Council of Europe.