AI Forums Guide

An overview of the key global forums where AI is on the agenda.

Council of Europe

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Description of forum

The Council of Europe is a regional intergovernmental organisation comprising 47 member states and focused on promoting human rights, democracy and the rule of law in Europe. The Council’s two most important bodies are the Committee of Ministers, comprising the Foreign Ministers of each member state, and the Parliamentary Assembly, composed of members of the national parliaments of each member state. The Commissioner for Human Rights is an independent institution within the Council of Europe, mandated to promote awareness of and respect for human rights in the member states.

Relevance for AI

The Council of Europe is actively working on AI through a range of ongoing initiatives. Most significantly, the Ad Hoc Committee on Artificial Intelligence (CAHAI) was established by the Committee of Ministers in 2019 with a mandate to examine the feasibility and potential elements of a legal framework for the development, design and application of artificial intelligence, based on Council of Europe’s standards on human rights, democracy and the rule of law. 

After two years of work, the CAHAI published its proposals for “possible elements of a legal framework” on AI and has since been succeeded by the Council on AI (CAI), which will build on CAHAI’s work. CAI’s work will continue until 31 December 2024; however, the deadline for CAI to develop the legal framework is 15 November 2023. If developed, this instrument would likely become the first international treaty relating to the governance and regulation of AI, complementing other international initiatives such as UNESCO’s Recommendation on the Ethics of AI (adopted November 2021).

While recommendations and other outputs adopted by the Council of Europe are not binding on member states, they tend to be highly influential. Any legal instrument developed by the Council of Europe is likely to be adopted by many member states, and other outputs such as recommendations issued by the Committee of Ministers also inform policy at the national level.

Opportunities to engage

To engage with the body, civil society organisations must hold observer status. This allows CSOs to submit comments and input on draft texts.

CAHAI (2019 – 2021) opened a multistakeholder consultation on the proposed legal instrument in April 2021, which closed in May 2021. Several civil society organisations made submissions, including Global Partners Digital, and the European Center for Not-for-Profit Law published guidance on how to respond to the consultation survey.

Its successor, CAI, began operating in April 2022. GPD in collaboration with other CSOs submitted a joint statement ahead of the first plenary meeting, calling for a commitment to a more transparent and inclusive development process. Ahead of CAI’s second plenary meeting, GPD submitted comments and input into the zero-draft of the treaty (the document is not yet currently available).

There are also opportunities for informal engagement with CAI members.

Existing outputs

In December 2020, CAHAI published a feasibility study on a legal framework on AI design, development and application based on Council of Europe standards. 

The Council of Europe has also separately published several instruments, including declarations, guidelines and recommendations, relating to AI, which can be found here. These include:

  • Guidelines on the protection of individuals with regard to the processing of data in a world of Big Data (2017)
  • The European Ethical Charter on the use of artificial intelligence (AI) in judicial systems and their environment (2018)
  • The Recommendation of the Committee of Ministers to member States on the human rights impacts of algorithmic systems * Guidelines on Artificial Intelligence and Data Protection (2019)
  • Recommendation of the Committee of Ministers to member States on the human rights impacts of algorithmic systems (2020)
  • The Declaration by the Committee of Ministers on the risks of computer-assisted or artificial-intelligence-enabled decision-making in the field of the social safety net (March 2021)

In October 2021, the CoE hosted a multistakeholder conference  on “Current and Future Challenges of Co-ordinated Policies on AI Regulation”. It then published conclusions from the discussion, including “highlighting the need for a coordinated approach to developing a legal framework for AI” and emphasising the “need” for a multistakeholder approach.

In July 2022, CAI released a zero draft of a binding AI treaty, which was reviewed during the 2nd plenary meeting in September 2022. The draft is not yet publicly available.

Important dates

CAI Meeting Schedule (2023)

  • 11 – 13 January 2023 – 3rd Plenary Meeting
  • 1 – 3 February 2023 – 4th Plenary Meeting

The full list of events can be found here.

European Union

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Description of forum

The European Union (EU) is a political and economic union of 27 member states. The EU aims to ensure the free movement of people, goods, services and capital within its internal market; enact legislation in justice and home affairs; and maintain common policies on trade, agriculture, development and other policy areas. Its institutions include the European Parliament, which represents the EU’s citizens and is directly elected by them; the European Council, which consists of the heads of state or government of the EU member states; and the European Commission, with members nominated by the member states.

Relevance for AI

The EU has identified AI as an area of strategic importance, and has laid out the next steps in the development of new rules and actions for “excellence and trust in Artificial Intelligence” in its 2021 Coordinated Plan of Action on AI. The plan is part of the Europe fit for the Digital Age programme, which aims to accelerate investments in AI technologies, act on AI strategies and programmes and align AI policy. As part of implementing the plan of action, the European Commission in April 2021 published its initial proposal for a regulation laying down harmonised rules on artificial intelligence, which, if passed, would be the first ever legal framework on AI. The proposal has since undergone intense negotiations; the final version of the act was formally adopted by EU Ministers at the Telecom Council Meeting – the working group overseeing the development of the AI Act –  in December 2022. The Telecommunication ministry usually meet twice a year. 

This means that the Council can now enter into negotiations with the European Parliament (known as ‘trilogues’) once the latter adopts its own position with a view to reaching an agreement on the proposed regulation. The final regulation is currently expected to enter into force in early 2023, with the earliest time the regulation could become applicable to operators likely to be in the second half of 2024. Once adopted, the AI Act will have broad impacts within EU member states and may potentially be influential across the world.

In September 2022, the EU published a Proposal for a Directive on adapting non contractual civil liability rules to artificial intelligence (September 2022) and the corresponding Impact Assessment for the proposal.

Related to the development of a binding legislation on AI and as part of the EU’s “a Europe Fit for the Digital Age” programme, the European Commissioner, European Parliament and the Council of the European Union reached a political agreement on the European Declaration on Digital Rights and Principles (November 2022). The Declaration will come into force once it has been jointly endorsed by the highest level of authority of each institution.

Opportunities to engage

While there are no longer any formal opportunities to provide feedback to the European Commission, there remain informal opportunities for engagement with EU member states and Members of the European Parliament.

Additionally, the European Commission has hosted public consultations across various stages of developing an AI framework, and it is likely to host more as the EU reaches the final stages of drafting the regulation. Thus far, the Commission has hosted public consultations on the following relevant documents:

Existing outputs

  • European Commission Coordinated Plan on Artificial Intelligence (December 2018
  • European Commission White Paper on Artificial Intelligence (February 2020)
  • European Commission Report on Artificial Intelligence Liability (February 2020)
  • Civil Liability Regime for AI (October 2020), which requested that the Commission propose legislation on AI 
  • European Commission Coordinated Plan on Artificial Intelligence 2021 Review (April 2021)
  • Proposal for a Regulation laying down harmonised rules on artificial intelligence ‘Artificial Intelligence Act’ (April 2021)
  • Council of the European Union: Slovenia Presidency Compromise Text on the AI Act (November 2021
  • Launch of the first AI Regulatory Sandbox in Spain: Bringing the AI Regulation Forward (June 2022)
  • Council of the European Union: French Presidency Compromise Text on the AI Act (July 2022)
  • European Commission Proposal for an AI Liability Directive (September 2022)

Important dates

  • 2 June 2023: Meeting of the Transport, Telecommunications and Energy Council  (Telecommunications)


Global Partnership on AI

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Description of forum

Born out of the Canadian and French G7 Presidencies (2018 & 2019, respectively), the Global Partnership on Artificial Intelligence (GPAI) is a multistakeholder initiative which aims to bridge the gap between theory and practice on AI by supporting cutting-edge research and applied activities on AI-related priorities. Launched in June 2020, the GPAI aims to provide a mechanism for sharing multidisciplinary research and identifying key issues among AI practitioners, with the objective of facilitating international collaboration, reducing duplication, acting as a global reference point for specific AI issues, and ultimately promoting trust in and the adoption of trustworthy AI.

The GPAI brings together experts from industry, government, civil society, and academia, to advance cutting-edge research and pilot projects on AI priorities. The forum structure includes a GPAI Council, a Steering Committee, and the Multistakeholder Experts Group Plenary (MEG), which includes a number of Working Groups. The GPAI Secretariat supports the GPAI Council and the GPAI Steering Committee. GPAI’s Centres of Expertise (one in Montreal and one in Paris) support the MEG and its working groups.

Its Secretariat is hosted at the OECD, and the OECD is also a Permanent Observer to GPAI’s governing bodies. OECD experts also participate in the working groups and plenary meetings.

Currently, 29 international partners have joined GPAI. Membership in GPAI is open to countries, including emerging and developing countries, as well as regional bodies such as the European Union.

Relevance for AI

As an expertise-based initiative, GPAI will undertake projects on specific AI issues in order to: support and guide the responsible development, use and adoption of AI that is human-centric and grounded in human rights, inclusion, diversity and innovation, while encouraging sustainable economic growth; facilitate international collaboration in a multistakeholder manner; and monitor and draw on work being done domestically and internationally to identify knowledge gaps, maximise coordination, and facilitate international collaboration on AI. This collaboration will take place across four working groups, including one on responsible AI. The outputs of GPAI will not be binding on states but will be influential.

The GPAI undertakes and implements these initiatives via working groups

Work of GPAI experts is presented in reports and during sessions at the GPAI Summit each year. The most recent summit was held in November 2022 in Japan. Check here for event updates.

Opportunities to engage

There are two main ways in which civil society can engage with the GPAI:

  1. Multistakeholder Experts Group Plenary

The Multistakeholder Experts Group Plenary annual meeting gathers all GPAI experts to engage in critical conversations about AI and discuss the findings and recommendations from the Working Groups’ activities. Between 100-150 experts from science, industry, civil society, trade unions, international organisations and governments will discuss GPAI outputs and future projects. The plenary also produces an annual report on AI developments and develops recommendations based on the results from the applied projects undertaken by the GPAI working groups.

Experts are selected as individuals and do not represent their organisation or country. Experts can be nominated by GPAI members or self-nominated to participate in GPAI for a term of three years. They can then collaborate across the four working groups.

More information on expert participation in the GPAI can be found here.

2. GPAI’s Working Groups

The GPAI has four working groups:

The working groups meet at least once a month. The groups’ co-chairs also meet regularly throughout the year to update one another on the working groups’ activities and discuss potential areas of collaboration through targeted joint meetings. Working group members additionally have access to other working groups’ materials through a central online platform.

While the working groups of the GPAI have already been set up, they are a potential area for engagement, in addition to ad-hoc consultations or attendance at events such as the annual summit. 

For more information on engaging specific working groups, review the individual working group’s page and reach out to the Group contact point and/or co-chairs. The working group’s page will also have information on ongoing projects and its most recent reports.

Existing outputs

  • Responsible Development, Use and Governance of AI Working Group Report (November 2020)
  • The Multidisciplinary Expert Group (MEG) 2022 Report (November 2022)
  • Responsible AI Working Group Report (November 2022
  • Transparency mechanisms for social media recommender algorithms: From proposals to action (November 2022)
  • Data Governance Working Group Report (November 2022)

International Telecommunications Union

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Description of forum

The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) is a specialised agency of the United Nations focusing on telecommunications. The ITU has three main areas of activity that are organised in Sectors: radiocommunications (R-Sector), telecommunications standardisation (T-Sector) and development (D-Sector). The most important event at the ITU is the Plenipotentiary Conference, which is the main decision-making body of the ITU and composed of all 193 ITU Member States. It determines the policies, direction and activities of the ITU and meets every four years. The ITU Council acts as the governing body between Plenipotentiary Conferences and meets every year to consider policy issues and the operations of the ITU. The ITU is further composed of a Secretariat, which is headed by a Secretary-General. Standards developed by the ITU and its Study Groups are entirely voluntary, but they are influential and are often adopted by states, particularly those with fewer resources or capacity at the national level.

Relevance for AI

AI is not a standalone item on the ITU’s agenda, but there are continued proposals by member states for AI to be an area where the ITU and its Study Groups develop standards. These proposals have come up in various conferences, including most recently at the ITU’s Plenipotentiary Conference (PP-22) in September 2022 when delegates proposed several new resolutions on AI.

The main Resolution on AI focused on applying AI technologies for good, and recognised the ITU-T (the ITU’s standardisation body that sets standards on information and communication technologies) study group’s continuing work on AI, as well as ongoing work across UN agencies to identify practical applications of AI to advance the UN Sustainable Development Goals. The resolution resolved that the ITU should continue its work on AI related to telecommunication and ICTs within its mandate and core competencies – including through studies, information sharing and capacity building, to foster information-sharing, and to identify collaboration opportunities with other relevant organisations and stakeholders. This resolution places a renewed focus on AI at the ITU and is likely to lead to future opportunities for engagement on AI at the forum.

Opportunities to engage

While civil society organisations can join as members of the ITU, the costs involved are significant. Non-members of the ITU are limited in their ability to participate in its work and there are only a limited number of NGOs currently engaged. Opportunities for civil society engagement mainly exist through joining or seeking to influence national delegations to ITU conferences, where this is possible.

ITU-T Focus Groups, Working Groups and Study Groups are both options available for engagement during the intersessional period. Modalities for CSO attendance and participation in these groups varies so make sure to review the guidelines and bylaws of each individual group with which you would like to engage.

Each technical sector has its own Study Groups and conferences composed of small groups of ITU member states and sector members (‘experts’) that meet every four years to review the Study Groups’ recommendations. They then develop and revise – in accordance with the outcomes of the sector level conferences – the Recommendations which inform the setting of standards. While most of the recommendation development process takes place within Study Groups, all ITU member states can input into the development of Recommendations through consultation and approval processes.

Open consultations are also held from time to time, in addition to opportunities for engagement with national delegations, which often coordinate with civil society organisations in preparation for their own participation.

ITU Study Groups of Relevance:

  • SG13 Future Networks

  • ​​​​​​SG3 – Tariff and accounting principles and international telecommunication/ICT economic and policy issues

  • ITU-T SG20: Internet of things (IoT) and smart cities and communities (SC&C)

  • ITU-T SG16: Multimedia and related digital technologies​

Focus Groups are created to augment the Study Group work programme by providing an alternative working environment for the quick development of specifications in their chosen areas. Focus Groups are widely used to address industry needs as they emerge, and when they are not covered within an existing Study Group. The key difference between Study Groups and Focus Groups is in the freedom that the latter must organise and finance themselves​. Focus Groups can be created very quickly, are usually short-lived and can choose their own working methods, leadership, financing, and types of deliverables.

ITU Focus Groups of Relevance:

The ITU Council also has several Working Groups to consider general administrative and policy issues, such as child online protection and internet-related public policy issues. Different Working Groups have different membership policies, with some being open solely to ‘Sector Members,’ ITU member states, nominated experts, or all three. However, these groups may host virtual consultations, which, even if they are solely open to member state submissions, provide an opportunity for CSOs to provide input via government delegations and/or industry representatives.

ITU Council Working Groups of Relevance:



Another option is to engage with the Telecommunication Standardization Advisory Group (TSAG). TSAG’s work is to act as an advisory body to the study groups, membership and staff of ITU-T, keeping in mind the needs of all members, from developed and developing countries, and from industry and governments. The Telecommunication Standardization Advisory Group is mandated to prepare the restructuring of ITU-T study groups for the 2022-2024 study period. However, only ITU members can register to attend TSAG meetings and provide input on its work.

Starting in 2017,  the ITU has also hosted an annual Global Summit on “AI for Good;” however, this has not taken place since 2019.

Existing outputs

The ITU has developed a global AI repository to identify AI-related projects, research initiatives, think-tanks and organisations that can accelerate progress towards the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals. The repository is open to all.

In 2021, the ITU-Development sector published a report on AI and big data for development 4.0 

Important dates

  • 20 January 2023: Meeting of the Focus Group on Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Internet of Things (IoT) for Digital Agriculture
  • 30 January – 10 February 2023: ITU-T SG20 Meeting

A full calendar of events can be found here.

UN General Assembly (Third Committee)

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Description of forum

The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), based in New York, is one of the six principal organs of the United Nations, and the only one in which all members have equal representation. It is the main deliberative, policymaking, and representative organ of the UN. The UNGA, which is composed of six separate committees, works on a wide array of international issues covered by the Charter of the United Nations. The Third Committee deals with social, humanitarian and human rights issues, and proposes Resolutions on these issues which are then put forward to the UNGA.

In December 2019, the UNGA adopted Resolution 74/247, which established an “an open-ended ad hoc intergovernmental committee of experts to elaborate a comprehensive international convention on countering the use of information and communications technologies for criminal purposes”. Generally referred to as the Ad Hoc Committee on Cybercrime or AHC, the group began work in 2020 on developing strategies for member states to combat cybercrime and to ensure that adequate responses and measures are in place to fight cybercrime.

Relevance for AI

The issue of AI appears on the Third Committee’s agenda periodically, although rarely as a standalone item. The most relevant Resolution is on the right to privacy in the digital age, which is reviewed every two years. The most recent UNGA report on privacy in the digital age was in 2020, and with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights having published its “right to privacy in the digital age” report in September 2022, it is likely to be next considered at some point in 2023 – 2024.

UN General Assembly (UNGA) resolutions are generally non-binding towards member states, but are influential on global policy, particularly when adopted by consensus. They set expected standards for state behaviour, and even offer concrete recommendations for national policy measures.

As the scope of the final cybercrime convention is yet to be determined, the relevance of the AHC to AI is still unclear.

Opportunities to engage

The UNGA begins every September for regular sessions and may meet at other points throughout the year for special sessions or emergency special sessions. Resolutions at the UNGA usually require a simple majority vote to pass. While the opportunities for direct engagement with the UNGA are limited, it is nonetheless an important space for organisations wishing to press the UN and member states to address specific issues. For example, Resolutions at the Third Committee start off as drafts sponsored by one or more lead states. These states are sometimes referred to colloquially as the ‘pen holders’. In many cases, lead states (or main sponsors) are traditionally identified with the issue addressed in a resolution. Lead sponsors of draft resolutions generally begin preparing their texts and building support several months ahead of the Third Committee session. As part of that process, some States will seek to engage with a range of stakeholders, including potential co-sponsoring states, NGOs, etc. The following months could present an opportunity to directly engage with relevant states.

Regarding the AHC, several states will hold consultations with civil society ahead of AHC meetings, which present an opportunity to provide feedback on member states’ positions. Additionally, per the modalities of multistakeholder participation, there is scope for those with ECOSOC accreditation to participate in AHC meetings by attending in-person and/or making interventions. Organisations that do not have ECOSOC accreditation can participate in sessions as observers of formal sessions of the AHC and depending on the time available, may have the opportunity to make oral statements at the end of discussions by Member States on each substantive agenda item.

Existing outputs

  • UNGA resolution on the right to privacy in the digital age (2020)
  • Resolution A/C.3/77/L.38 on the Right to Privacy (2022), which calls for member states to consider the issue again in the 79th UNGA session in 2024

Important dates (2023 – 2024)

Ad Hoc Committee on Cybercrime (AHC):

  • 9 – 20 January 2023: Fourth Substantive Session
  • 11 – 21 April 2023: Fifth Substantive Session
  • 21 August – 1 September 2023: Sixth Substantive Session
  • 29 January – 9 February 2024: Concluding Session** 

**Exact dates to be confirmed

UN General Assembly (UNGA)

  • UNGA78 12 – 30 September 2023
  • UNGA79 17 – 30 September 2024

UN Human Rights Council

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Description of forum

The Human Rights Council (HRC) is an intergovernmental body within the United Nations system responsible for strengthening the promotion and protection of human rights around the globe and for addressing situations of human rights violations and make recommendations on them. It has the ability to discuss all thematic human rights issues and situations that require its attention throughout the year. It meets at the UN Office at Geneva.

Relevance for AI

The issue of AI appears on the HRCs agenda periodically, although rarely as a standalone item. It may appear in Resolutions on new and emerging digital technologies and human rights (most recently in 2021 with A_HRC_RES_47_23)  as well as in OHCHR reports on the right to privacy in the digital age (most recently in 2022 with A_HRC_51_17) .

HRC resolutions and reports are not binding on states, but they are influential.

Opportunities to engage

The HRC meets three times a year in regular sessions, usually March, June and September. It can meet for special sessions if a request is made by one third of its members; and it occasionally hosts intersessional panels, which look at particular thematic issues.

Those organisations which have consultative status at the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) can participate in person, hold side events, submit written contributions and make statements to the HRC. But even without this status, there are opportunities for informal engagement. The drafting of the resolutions is often undertaken informally by the member states concerned, providing other actors – including civil society organisations – an opportunity to provide comments through informal contact. Civil society may influence the draft text of upcoming resolutions by engaging proactively and directly with those interested states – either through their permanent missions at the UN in Geneva, or in their capitals, as the draft text of the resolutions is discussed informally by those states before being presented to the HRC session. The earlier you can start engagement, the better. Once a draft resolution is being discussed informally, try to obtain a copy of the draft so that you can provide more detailed comments and feedback, including revisions to the text.

At the 48th and 51st regular sessions, new editions of the report on the right to privacy in the digital age were discussed and adopted. The agenda for the 52nd regular session has yet to be announced.

Existing outputs

  • Resolution on the right to privacy in the digital age (2019)
  • Resolution A_HRC_RES_41_11 on new and emerging digital technologies and human rights (2019)
  • Resolution on the right to privacy in the digital age (2021)
  • 2022 report on privacy in the digital age (A_HRC_51_17)

Important dates (2023)

UN Secretary General's Roadmap for Digital Cooperation

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Description of forum

The Office of the UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Technology is responsible for coordinating the implementation of the Secretary-General’s Roadmap on Digital Cooperation and advancing work towards the Global Digital Compact (GDC) proposed in the Common Agenda. 

The GDC is an UN-led initiative that aims to develop a set of guiding principles for member states on how human rights standards apply in the digital age, including on the development of system-wide guidance on human rights due diligence and impact assessments in the use of new technologies. The initiative is part of the UN’s larger goal to “protect the online space and strengthen its governance” as laid out in the Our Common Agenda report published in 2021. The GDC falls under the purview of the UN Tech Envoy’s office, which is currently led by the newly-appointed UN Tech Envoy, Amandeep Singh Gill

The final text is to be agreed upon at the Summit of the Future; originally scheduled for September 2023, the Summit has been postponed to September 2024 per an UNGA resolution A/76/L.87 adopted September 2022. The resolution outlines the event modalities, and notes that the Summit will be preceded by a preparatory ministerial meeting in September 2023. 

The international community—including civil society—has until March 2023 to respond to the Office’s online consultation on the Global Digital Compact as part of its development ahead of negotiations. After that point, stakeholder modalities for participation in the drafting and negotiation of the final text have yet to be resolved.

Relevance for AI

In June 2020 the United Nations Secretary-General issued a Roadmap for Digital Cooperation (A/74/821) which addresses how the international community can better harness the opportunities presented by digital technologies while addressing their challenges. The Roadmap identified AI as one area for key action, noting “…while interest in artificial intelligence is overwhelmingly high, there is a gap in international coordination, collaboration and governance.”

The Office has also identified AI as one of the key elements to be included in the Global Digital Compact (GDC). 

The consultation on the Global Digital Compact has asked the international community to respond to the following questions: 

  • How can we best ensure an “open, free and secure digital future for all”? 
  • What shared principles should be included in the Global Digital Compact? 
  • Which issues should be addressed – those mentioned above in the Common Agenda report or others? 
  • What can and should the international community do to address them?

Opportunities to engage

In early 2022, the Envoy’s Office began the process of consulting a variety of stakeholders on the development of the GDC. The office has also opened an online consultation portal where anyone – individuals, groups, associations, organisations, entities – can provide input on what to be included in the GDC. Most recently, the office has hosted a regional roundtable discussions in Africa  that took place in Kenya in December 2022). The office has also announced plans to conduct regional roundtable in Mexico and India in 2023 (more details to come).

Stakeholder modalities for engagement in the drafting process and negotiations for the final text of the Compact remains unclear and will depend on member states’ views. However, the Tech Envoy’s Office has committed to ensuring as much multistakeholder participation in the GDC development process as possible and has offered to serve as an advocate for a more transparent and inclusive process. While ultimately, the decision on stakeholder modalities remains the purview of UN member states, there is an opportunity to engage with the Tech Envoy’s Office by sending recommendations for a more inclusive development process. Additionally, while stakeholder modalities for the Summit are still not clear, participation will surely be warranted. 

In October 2022, the President of the UNGA announced the appointment of H.E. Ms. Antje Leendertse, Permanent Representative of Germany to the United Nations and H.E. Mr. Neville Melvin Gertze, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Namibia to the United Nations as co-facilitators to lead consultations on the Summit of the Future during the 77th session. Outreach to the co-facilitators presents another opportunity for engagement to shape the GDC’s development.

Existing outputs

  • Report of the Secretary-General: Roadmap for Digital Cooperation (June 2020)
  • Background Note
  • Contribute to the Global Digital Compact: A How-To Guide
  • GPD Joint Input on AI 

Important dates

  • 31 March 2023: deadline for GDC input
  • June 2023: Secretary-General to develop a final report by June based on input
  • 18 September 2023: preparatory Ministerial meeting to look at how to move forward into an active negotiating phase
  • September 2024: Summit for the Future


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Description of forum

UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) is an UN Specialised Agency which 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. 

Based in Paris, France, UNESCO comprises 193 member states and 11 associate members, as well as partners in the nongovernmental, intergovernmental, and private sector.

Relevance for AI

UNESCO has developed and is in the process of implementing several projects and initiatives on AI as part of the implementation period of the Recommendations on the Ethics of AI, These efforts are largely overseen by the Social and Human Sciences unit of UNESCO as well as the AI & Digital Transformation team.

At the most recent General Conference in December 2021, member states adopted the Recommendation on the Ethics of Artificial Intelligence into which Global Partners Digital among other civil society organisations inputted. This is the first-ever global framework for ensuring that AI-driven digital transformations support human rights and was the final product of a two-year process. An analysis of the final version of the Recommendation by Global Partners Digital can be found here. This Recommendation is voluntary but highly influential.

The office has also committed to launching various initiatives as part of the implementation phase of the Recommendation.

Opportunities to engage

As part of the implementation phase of the Recommendation on the Ethics of AI, UNESCO spent 2022 working on a variety of new initiatives that should be launched in 2023. A few of the main initiatives include:

  1. Regional Roundtables

The aim of the roundtables is to promote the implementation of the principles among governments in the region. Currently, there are plans to begin in Latin America under the supervision of the regional office for Latin America and the Caribbean based in Uruguay.

  1. Readiness Impact Assessment Methodology

The Readiness Assessment Methodology will help countries understand how prepared they are to implement AI ethically and responsibly for all their citizens.

  1. Ethical Impact Assessment

The Ethical Impact Assessment will help actors involved in the procurement or development of AI systems to predict consequences, mitigate risks and address societal challenges in line with the values and principles of the Recommendation. The assessment will first be piloted in Africa before being rolled out to the rest of the world,

They have also announced the upcoming launch of the following initiatives (more information to come):

  • AI Experts without Borders

  • The Global Network of Knowledge Centres on Ethics of AI

  • Women in AI Ethics Network

At the regional level, UNESCO began implementation on initiatives in both the African and South American continents in 2022. At the Southern African sub-Regional Forum on AI held in September 2022, UNESCO showcased the prototypes of the readiness assessment tools and the ethical impact assessment. They also launched a Southern African coordination mechanism for the implementation of the UNESCO Recommendation on the Ethics of AI.

In South America, UNESCO has signed a letter of intent to work with the CAF-Development Bank of Latin America on supporting the creation of a Regional Council that will include the local and national governments of the region. The Council will develop methodologies, guides and training programmes to facilitate the implementation of the AI recommendations. UNESCO also signed a letter of intent with Telefónica to develop joint public-private initiatives that promote and implement the recommendations.

UNESCO also-specific initiatives aimed at supporting regional governments in their implementation of the Recommendations. Thus far, they have announced initiatives in the following countries:

In addition to such project-based engagement opportunities, there are also opportunities to engage in regular UNESCO meetings and conferences. For example, every two years UNESCO hosts a General Conference, attended by member states, Associate Members, intergovernmental organisations and NGOs. The General Conference determines the policies and the main lines of work of the Organization. Its duty is to set the programmes and the budget of UNESCO. It also elects the Members of the Executive Board and appoints, every four years, the Director-General.

Existing outputs

    • Revised first draft Recommendation on the Ethics of Artificial Intelligence (transmitted September 2020 to Member States)
    • Final Recommendation on the Ethics of Artificial Intelligence (December 2021)
    • Multistakeholder AI development: 10 building blocks for inclusive policy design (April 2022)
    • 7 September 2022: UNESCO’s Comic strip “Inside AI – An Algorithmic Adventure”
    • Artificial Intelligence and Digital Transformation Competencies for Civil Servants Framework (September 2022)

Important dates

A full calendar of events can be found here.