United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)


UNESCO is the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. It seeks to build peace through international cooperation in Education, the Sciences and Culture. UNESCO’s programmes contribute to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals defined in Agenda 2030, adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2015.

Description of Activities on AI

Project 1: Defending Human Rights in an Age of Artificial Intelligence

UNESCO and UNITAR jointly launched a new microlearning course on AI and Human Rights for youths aged 16 to 24. The course breaks down complex concepts about AI through activities built around our daily technology interactions. The course focuses on how freedom of expression, right to privacy and the right to equality are impacted using AI. Users will be aware of the implications of AI for freedom of expression, right to privacy and the right to equality, through interactive exercises users will identify and engage with practical examples of uses of AI, which are problematic from a Human Rights perspective.

The course is available in English and Russian and will be available in French, Spanish and Chinese in 2021.

Project 2: AI, Data and Languages – Development of datasets for low resource languages in Africa

Based on the findings of the AI Needs Assessment Survey in Africa and another survey of over 1200 judicial operators in 100 countries, UNESCO is now developing training on AI and the Rule of Law. This training will be available in 7 languages will be structured around six introductory modules that unpack AI’s application and impact in the administration of justice. It has a unique format as it includes sitting judges from Supreme Courts, Human Rights Courts, Legal Experts and Technology experts, all coming together to share their knowledge. Importantly, the experts teaching the course come from India, Senegal, Kenya, Netherlands, United States, Chile, Brazil to China.

Project 3: AI for the Planet

UNESCO, UNEP and Startup Inside organized a global virtual conference and series of monthly dialogues that bring together world’s best experts and AI pioneers to share concrete use cases, identify best practices, celebrate successes and inspire further actions in this dynamic field. It highlights AI innovations related to sustainable development and the preservation of the planet. Over 2000 people worldwide from more than 100 countries have joined the digital events, which has highlighted a number of interesting developments, such as the impact of AI and machine learning to guide cities towards sustainable mobility, the impact of “green” investments and the use of AI to conserve biodiversity.

Project 4: Activating Collective Intelligence for Artificial Intelligence Policies – AI Participatory Workshops and Protocols

With Innovation for Policy, UNESCO is facilitating community consultations and white paper to provide advice to governments on inclusive and multistakeholder driven processes for the development of AI policies. Through an iterative series of multi-stakeholder learning and co-creation workshops, i4Policy and UNESCO will develop a report on Activating Collective Intelligence for Artificial Intelligence Policy Frameworks.

It leverages AI and innovation community networks in developing countries to inform the development of global protocols on AI policy development process.

Project 5: Comic Strip on Artificial Intelligence

In the framework of the work of UNESCO to support capacity building in emerging technologies for Sustainable development, this comic strip is targeted at the wider public. Artificial intelligence is often reduced to pure technology, so the goal of the publication is to showcase the consequences of technology on freedom of expression and human rights. It will inform and educate the public on AI and issues related to AI, namely AI and Sustainable Development, AI Professions, as well as Ethical and Responsible AI.

The publication will go way beyond theoretical understanding of a topic and is shows the everyday parts in which we are already confronted with AI, what challenges linked to AI are (i.e. biased AI), what their origin is and how they can be addressed. Moreover, AI in relation to the SDGs and UNESCO’s ROAM principles will be further elaborated in the publication.

In this original work, examples will respect geographical diversity and gender distribution by showing one example respectively from Asia, Africa, Europe or the USA, Latin America or Oceania; half of the examples are carried by women. The screenwriters and graphic designers will also be from different world regions ensuring inclusion.

Project 6: Globalpolicy.ai Portal

The platform provides policy and decision makers with data, research, use cases, and best practices in the field of AI policy and facilitates access to relevant AI-related resources from International Organizations. It serves as a platform that highlights cooperation between International Organizations and makes readily available information on one centralized portal related to AI Governance. Key partners include the Council of Europe, the European Commission, the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, the Inter-American Development Bank, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the United Nations (UN), and the World Bank Group.

Project 7: Gaps in AI Policy and Programme Development

The publication will provide world leaders, policy-makers, and civil society members with perspectives that will be critical to face the immense task they’re presented: to ensure the development of AI reaches its full potential in accordance with democratic values and fundamental rights and freedoms. The magnitude of this challenge requires a collaborative effort that transcends disciplinary barriers and geographical borders. This publication will bring together visionary academics, civil society representatives, artists and innovators to help us shift the conversation from what we already know to what we have yet to render visible to ensure AI technologies leave no one behind.

Project 8: Joint Report on The Effects of AI on the Female Labor Market

UNESCO, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Inter-American Development Bank (IADB) and Oxford Internet Institute (OII) are developing a joint report concerning the effects of AI on the female labor market. The report is intended to raise general awareness on the disruptions of AI during the workforce lifecycle from a gender perspective.

This descriptive publication is targeted broadly at the general public and decision-makers across sectors including public sectors, private sectors and academia, and provides policymakers with an introduction to issues regarding gender and AI, including applied use cases to consider in AI Programmes and Policy Development

Project 9: AI Capacity Building Needs Assessment Survey Africa

From the global debates around the development and use of AI, we know that there is heterogeneity in the development needs and capacities of countries around the world. There is also a gap in information on AI policies and strategies from developing countries. We wanted to address this gap and learn directly understand from our member states about their policy priorities and capacity building needs for AI.

Project 10: AI and the Futures of Learning project (based on the Teaching Artificial Intelligence at School project)

To support Member States to harness AI for education, with equity and inclusion as guiding principles, UNESCO initiated this project on effective use of AI in the future of learning underpinned by three enablers: (1) needs-driven AI-enabled futures of learning: the project will reveal emerging use cases for leveraging AI to address fundamental needs of learning and provide recommendation on planning; (2) a guidance on ethical principles: the project will develop ethical principles for the design, deployment, and applications of AI in learning and education; and (3) AI competencies: the project will develop a guiding framework on AI competencies needed by all learners to live and learn with AI.

The Project will address both the technological and the human-oriented dimensions of AI and the futures of learning across three sub-domains as identified in UNESCO’s AI and Education: Guidance for policy-makers: learning with AI, learning about AI, and learning to work and live with AI.

Project 11: AI and Education: Guidance for Policy-Makers

This publication offers guidance for policy-makers on how best to leverage the opportunities and address the risks, presented by the growing connection between AI and education. It starts with the essentials of AI: definitions, techniques and technologies. It continues with a detailed analysis of the emerging trends and implications of AI for teaching and learning, including how we can ensure the ethical, inclusive and equitable use of AI in education, how education can prepare humans to live and work with AI, and how AI can be applied to enhance education. It finally introduces the challenges of harnessing AI to achieve SDG 4 and offers concrete actionable recommendations for policy-makers to plan policies and programmes for local contexts.

Project 12: Recommendation on the Ethics of Artificial Intelligence

The Recommendation on the Ethics of Artificial Intelligence is the first-ever global normative instrument on the ethics of artificial intelligence. It is a novel, anticipatory, and transformative framework, offering concrete policy actions that are anchored in universal values and principles, to ensure that AI systems work for the good of humanity. The Recommendation will be a blueprint for global consensus on the ‘what,’ as well as the ‘how’ of ethical regulation of this game-changing technology, and serve as a shared reference point for leaders around the world on how to control the risks and harness these new technologies as a force for good. . It will provide concrete mechanisms, such as the Ethical Impact Assessment and Readiness Benchmarking Methodology and various capacity-building mechanisms to help countries evaluate benefits and risks of AI systems, put in place risk prevention, mitigation and monitoring measures, and to deploy various redress mechanisms for those who have been adversely affected by these new technologies.

Project 13: Teaching Artificial Intelligence at School project

The connection between AI and education involves three areas: learning with AI (e.g. the use of AI-powered tools in classrooms), learning about AI (its technologies and techniques) and preparing for AI (e.g. enabling all citizens to better understand the potential impact of AI on human lives). The “Teaching artificial intelligence at school” project currently focuses on the latter two connections. The goal is to contribute to mainstreaming both the human and technical aspects of AI into training programmes for school students. It begins with piloting capacity development of curriculum developers and master trainers from selected national institutions to empower young people.

Project 14: AI animations: empowering youth through knowledge sharing

UNESCO developed by the end of 2020 a series of 7 short AI animations based on the UNESCO publication Steering AI and Advanced ICTs for Knowledge Societies – a Rights, Openness, Access, and Multi-stakeholder (ROAM) perspective to promote a better understanding of the basic concepts related to AI, as well as the guiding human rights and ethical principles underpinning its development. Each animation contains a key message illustrating the importance of ROAM principles. To promote access to information for all through digital technologies, UNESCO engaged with youth groups and volunteers to translate the animations into over 20 languages, including indigenous. The translated subtitles and audio files will be made public online, granting access to the local communities to up-to-date knowledge on AI in their own languages.

Project 15: AI for Girls – Girls in ICT Day Thailand training track

To promote Artificial Intelligence for social good, and enhance the participation of women and youth in the development of AI, UNESCO organized a series of online training on AI for girls within the framework of the Girls in ICT Day Thailand. In collaboration with Microsoft Thailand, 5 webinars were organized reaching about 90 participants in total. The project aimed to inspire and stimulate girls and young women’s interests to engage in the design and development of AI in Thailand and share with them the important ethical and human rights principles for AI development through interactive training activities. It was a good opportunity not only to equip the girls with knowledge on AI and its ethical principles but also with confidence so that they engage in studies and careers related to AI development.

Related Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

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