Artificial Intelligence

Robot Sophia addresses ECOSOC, seen here conversing with Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed. UN Photo/Manuel Elias

The Chief Executives Board for Coordination (CEB) and its high-level committees, High Level Committee on Management (HLCM) and the High Level Committee on Programmes (HLCP), have devoted significant attention to strengthening system-wide policy and programmatic coordination and coherence to address the social, economic and environmental implications of rapidly developing technologies, including artificial intelligence, as well as to capturing innovation-driven opportunities for accelerating the achievement of the SDGs.

Institutional background: 

The importance of scientific and technological innovation for meeting many sustainable development challenges and for accelerating human progress is widely noted throughout the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The importance of scientific and technological innovation for meeting many sustainable development challenges and for accelerating human progress is widely noted throughout the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The General Assembly, in its resolutions 72/242 and 73/17, also recognizes that the pace and scope of rapid technological change can have far-reaching implications – both positive and negative – for the achievement of sustainable development, requiring international and multi-stakeholder cooperation in order to benefit from opportunities and address challenges.

Under the chairmanship of Secretary-General António Guterres, the United Nations System Chief Executives Board for Coordination (CEB) and its subsidiary machinery have considered a selection of “frontier issues” to ensure that the United Nations system is positioned to provide timely and informed support and advice to Member States in today's quickly evolving technological context.

At its session in November 2017, CEB started examining the risks and opportunities for sustainable development associated with new and emerging technologies and related developments, specifically considering artificial intelligence, cyberspace, biotechnology, and the peace and security implications of emerging technologies. The aim was to identify appropriate areas for engagement by the UN system on frontier technologies in support of Member States. The discussions were informed by analyses produced by the High-level Committee on Programmes (HLCP).

By May 2019, at the request of CEB, HLCP had completed work on three key frontier topics – artificial intelligence (AI), the future of work and innovative education – presenting three interlinked system-wide strategies for the Board’s endorsement.

United Nations system-wide strategic approach and road map for supporting capacity development on artificial intelligence

Recognizing the transformative power of artificial intelligence (AI) to serve as a force for good, HLCP, at its 35th and 36th sessions, addressed the need for significant investment in capacity-building in order to harness AI in a manner that benefits those at risk of being left behind, especially in developing countries. At its 37th session, in April 2019, HLCP Members re-emphasized the transformative effect of AI on societies and approved the United Nations system-wide strategic approach and road map for supporting capacity development on artificial intelligence, which was subsequently endorsed by CEB at its first regular session of 2019.

The approach lays out commitments to promote system-wide action on:

  1. AI-related capacity-building for developing countries with a focus on the “bottom billion”;
  2. Supporting broader stakeholder engagement and knowledge exchange within and outside the United Nations system on AI; and
  3. Promoting the ethical development and application of AI technologies for public good.

The implementation of the strategic approach and its road map for action are being carried forward through the collaborative efforts of relevant United Nations entities, under the leadership of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), taking into consideration the strengths of each entity, together with relevant inter-agency mechanisms, including those that are operationally oriented.

Ethics of Artificial Intelligence

During the UNESCO General Conference in November 2019, Member States had mandated the organization to support the process of elaborating a non-binding recommendation on the ethics of AI, for possible adoption by UNESCO’s General Conference at its 41st session in 2021. A first version of the recommendation was published in May 2020, prepared by a 24-member Ad Hoc Expert Group appointed by the Director-General of UNESCO in their personal capacity.

In keeping with its function as a think tank and a catalyst of ideas, HLCP provided a platform to develop, under UNESCO’s leadership, a joint United Nations system input on the draft recommendation and to elaborate further possible UN system-wide actions on the Ethics of Artificial Intelligence. Subsequently, at an intersessional meeting in July 2020, the Committee approved the UN system-wide contribution to UNESCO’s Ad Hoc Expert Group in the preparation of a Recommendation to UNESCO General Conference on the Ethics of Artificial Intelligence.

Documents

Input to the UNESCO Ad Hoc Expert Group on the Ethics of Artificial Intelligence

HLCP provided a platform to develop, under UNESCO’s leadership, a UN system-wide contribution to UNESCO’s Ad Hoc Expert Group in the preparation of a Recommendation to UNESCO General Conference on the Ethics of Artificial Intelligence. The Committee approved the text following an intersessional meeting in July 2020 that was chaired by Mr. Ryder, Director-General of the International Labour Organization, and moderated by Ms.

The following decisions are extracted from official reports.

Action on artificial intelligence, High-Level Committee on Programmes - Decision posted: 06/11/2017

The following decisions are extracted from official reports.

Action on artificial intelligence, High-Level Committee on Programmes - Decision posted: 06/11/2017

The CEB and its subsidiary mechanisms meet and report on a bi-annual basis.

Report of 34th Session (September 2017, Geneva) (CEB/2017/5), High-Level Committee on Management - Session report posted: 22/11/2017

The CEB and its subsidiary mechanisms meet and report on a bi-annual basis.

Report of 34th Session (September 2017, Geneva) (CEB/2017/5), High-Level Committee on Management - Session report posted: 22/11/2017
UN System Framework for Action on Equality, - Excerpt posted: 31/05/2017
Transitioning from the MDGs to the SDGs, CEB Secretariat - Excerpt posted: 16/11/2016
Frontier issues, Chief Executives Board for Coordination - posted: 29/01/2018
Sustainable Development, High-Level Committee on Programmes - posted: 05/07/2012

This page is maintained by HLCP and was last updated on Mon, 11/23/2020 - 17:00