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UN convenes forum on ethical use of AI

30 NOVEMBER, MANILA, PHILIPPINES. The United Nations in the Philippines yesterday convened national stakeholders in the field of artificial intelligence (AI) to discuss the ethical use of this rapidly developing technology to accelerate sustainable development.

Recognizing both the tremendous potential and risks brought about by AI systems, the UN in the Philippines initiated the consultative process to assist the Philippines with the assessment of preparedness to utilize AI using the internationally agreed AI Readiness Assessment Methodology developed by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as part of its implementation of the 2021 its Recommendation on the Ethics of Artificial Intelligence. This comprehensive readiness assessment supports Member States in maximizing the benefits, while mitigating the risks of developing and using AI technologies.

Yesterday’s forum serves as a foundational step in setting up a network of experts that can provide guidance to develop and harness the power of AI for good and ensure that its transformative impact is inclusive and rights-based.

“If we unlock the immense possibilities of AI, we have the responsibility to ensure that these are aligned with the principles of fairness, accountability, transparency, and promoting and respecting human rights and dignity,” said Gabriela Ramos, UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Social and Human Sciences, in her virtual address to the forum.

To preface the discussion, UNESCO presented its Recommendation on the Ethics of AI, a document that outlines key values, principles and strategies on AI use, which was adopted by 193 Member States in 2021. UNESCO also shared its Readiness Assessment Methodology, an instrument to help countries understand where they stand on the scale of preparedness to implement AI ethically and responsibly for all their citizens.

This emphasis on ethical frameworks for AI addresses potential and existing issues, including concerns that barriers to accessing the technology intensify social and economic disparities. Algorithms have also been shown to amplify bias and discrimination, facilitate the spread of disinformation, and heighten the risk of data privacy violations, among other safety and security-related challenges.

“AI technology is evolving faster than we can imagine. This is why we must better understand the ethical implications of this revolutionary technology,” said Gustavo Gonzalez, United Nations Resident Coordinator in the Philippines. “Today we are setting up a network, a community, to contribute to the conversation on the efficient and responsible use of AI in the Philippines because if not well-managed, digital innovations can exacerbate existing inequalities.”

At the global level, the UN Secretary-General formed in October 2023 the High-Level Advisory Body on Artificial Intelligence, which will identify key opportunities to leverage AI for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), create a shared understanding of the technology’s risks and challenges, and recommend international governance initiatives.

Recommendations on AI governance will be taken up at the Summit of the Future, a high-level event which will be held in September 2024 where world leaders will discuss existing international commitments and take concrete steps to respond to emerging challenges and opportunities.

The National Stakeholders Roundtable on Ethical AI was organized by the United Nations in the Philippines and sponsored by UNESCO, UNIDO, and UNOPS.

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