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UNESCO’s Global Forum on the Ethics of Artificial Intelligence 2024 held in Kranj, Slovenia marked a pivotal moment in the global dialogue surrounding the responsible development and governance of artificial intelligence (AI). Among the significant announcements made during this forum was the launch of the Global AI Ethics and Governance Observatory, a ground-breaking platform designed to foster knowledge, expert insights, and good practices in the realm of AI ethics and governance.

The Role of UNESCO in Global AI Governance

The launch of the Global AI Ethics and Governance Observatory was spearheaded by key figures in the field, including Gabriela Ramos, Assistant Director-General for Social and Human Sciences at UNESCO, David Leslie, Director of Ethics and Responsible Innovation Research at the Alan Turing Institute, a Professor of Ethics, Technology, and Society at Queen Mary University of London, and Reinhard Scholl, Programme Chair of AI for Good.

This collaborative effort between UNESCO, the Alan Turing Institute, and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) signifies a commitment to addressing the multifaceted challenges posed by the rapid advancement of AI technologies. The Observatory serves as a centralized repository of information, insights, and resources aimed at guiding policymakers, regulators, academics, the private sector, and civil society in navigating the ethical and governance dimensions of AI.

Governments around the world have decisively moved on from the question of whether to regulate AI to the urgent question of how. The Observatory aims to start providing some of the answers for how to go about this complex but vital task.

Gabriela Ramos
Assistant Director-General for Social and Human Sciences of UNESCO

Key Features of the Observatory

At its core, the Global AI Ethics and Governance Observatory aims to provide a comprehensive resource for stakeholders to confront the ethical dilemmas and societal implications associated with AI deployment. Building upon UNESCO’s Recommendation on the Ethics of Artificial Intelligence, which was adopted by 193 countries in 2021, the Observatory seeks to operationalize key principles and values outlined in the recommendation through practical tools and methodologies.

Readiness Assessment Methodology (RAM)

One such tool is the Readiness Assessment Methodology (RAM), which enables governments to evaluate their preparedness to implement AI ethically and responsibly. By leveraging RAM, countries can gain insights into their sociotechnical landscape, identify areas for improvement, and develop strategies to mitigate potential risks associated with AI deployment.

AI Ethics and Governance Lab

The Observatory also hosts the AI Ethics and Governance Lab, a collaborative platform where experts from around the world can contribute insights, research findings, and policy recommendations on critical issues related to AI ethics and governance. Through the AI Ethics and Governance Lab, stakeholders can access cutting-edge research, case studies, and best practices aimed at fostering responsible AI innovation and deployment.

Global Hub

Moreover, the Observatory serves as a Global Hub for sharing information and data on AI governance practices and trends. Country profiles offer detailed snapshots of the AI landscape in different nations, while global statistics provide insights into key metrics such as reported AI incidents, national AI strategies, private investment in AI, and patent applications related to AI technologies.

UNESCO’s Commitment to AI Ethics

The launch of the Global AI Ethics and Governance Observatory underscores UNESCO’s commitment to promoting the ethical development and deployment of AI technologies worldwide. By fostering collaboration, knowledge sharing, and capacity building, the Observatory seeks to empower stakeholders to harness the transformative potential of AI while safeguarding fundamental human rights, promoting inclusivity, and mitigating the risks of unintended consequences.

As the global community grapples with the ethical and governance challenges posed by AI, initiatives like the Global AI Ethics and Governance Observatory play a crucial role in shaping a more equitable, sustainable, and human-centric future for artificial intelligence. Through continued collaboration and dialogue, stakeholders can work towards harnessing the full potential of AI while upholding ethical principles and values that prioritize the well-being of society as a whole.