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UN agency calls on governments to implement global ethical framework for AI

UNESCO issued a call for countries to implement its global ethical framework regarding artificial intelligence. The agency said it's working with countries to develop AI checks.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) called Thursday for countries to implement its global ethical framework immediately following pleas by more than a thousand tech workers for a pause in the training of the most powerful artificial intelligence (AI) systems

The agency said in a release that the "Recommendation on the Ethics of Artificial Intelligence" provides all necessary safeguards. 

"The world needs stronger ethical rules for artificial intelligence: this is the challenge of our time. UNESCO’s Recommendation on the ethics of A.I. sets the appropriate normative framework. Our member states all endorsed this recommendation in November 2021. It is high time to implement the strategies and regulations at national level," Audrey Azoulay, UNESCO’s director-general, said in a statement.

This is the first global framework for the ethical use of A.I. and was adopted unanimously by the 193 member states of the organization. 

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UNESCO said it guides countries both on how to maximize the benefits of the tool and reduce its risks, providing policy recommendations alongside values and principles.

The group added that it was concerned by many of the ethical issues raised by the innovations, highlighting discrimination and stereotyping in particular, as well as the fight against disinformation, the right to privacy, the protection of personal data and human and environmental rights

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"Industry self-regulation is clearly not sufficient to avoid these ethical harms, which is why the recommendation provides the tools to ensure that A.I. developments abide by the rule of law, avoiding harm and ensuring that when harm is done, accountability and redressal mechanisms are at hand for those affected," it said.

Notably, the recommendation places a readiness assessment tool at the core of its guidance. The tool enables countries to determine the competencies and skills required in the workforce to ensure robust regulation of the artificial intelligence sector. Furthermore, it also provides that the member states report regularly on their progress and their practices in the field of artificial intelligence, submitting a related report every four years.

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Thus far, more than 40 countries are working with UNESCO to develop A.I. checks and balances at the national level. A progress report will be presented at the UNESCO Global Forum on the Ethics of Artificial Intelligence in Slovenia this December.

A founding member of UNESCO, the U.S. withdrew from the agency – and not for the first time – under the Trump administration.

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