13 Aug 2020

GPD responds to UNESCO consultation on ethics of artificial intelligence

GPD has responded to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)’s consultation on its draft Recommendation on the Ethics of Artificial Intelligence, published in May. The final Recommendation will provide guidance to UNESCO member states, through the elaboration of “ethical values, principles and policy recommendations  for the research, design, development, deployment  and usage of AI, to make AI systems work for the good of humanity, individuals, societies, and the environment”. The consultation sought comments and feedback on the text of the first draft of the Recommendation.

In our response, we highlighted a number of ways that the draft Recommendation could be further strengthened to ensure that human rights are mainstreamed in the language. These included:

  • Removing references to subjective terms with no clear international definition, such as “fairness”, “moral values” and “quality of life”;
  • Adding a new principle of “human rights respecting” to ensure that respect for human rights is a clear and explicit foundation for the policy recommendations in the document.

We also made suggestions for further policy recommendations that would ensure this in practice. These include:

  • Recommending that any training on AI at different educational levels includes an understanding the human rights impacts of AI;
  • Recommendations related to AI research, including that state-funded research grant applications should set out how they are human rights-respecting, and for this to be a key consideration in funding decisions;
  • Recommending that individuals should be able to challenge decisions made by AI systems, even when they affect their human rights or other legal rights.
  • Recommending that private sector companies provide remediation mechanisms consistent with their responsibilities under the UN Guiding Principles (especially Principle 31); and
  • Recommending that states ensure the existence, implementation and enforcement of data protection legislation in line with international standards and best practices.



UNESCO has stated that consultation responses will be considered by the Ad Hoc Expert Group which is overseeing the work, with hopes for the final Recommendation to be adopted at the 41st session of UNESCO’s General Conference at the end of 2021.