Flag of the Netherlands with logo of United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization

UNESCO, Netherlands team up to design for AI governance frameworks

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has entered into a partnership with the Dutch government to explore the creation of a framework to support the ethical supervision of artificial intelligence (AI).

UNESCO confirmed the collaboration via an official statement, describing the joint project as its attempt to promote the safe usage of AI across the globe. Dubbed ‘Supervising AI by Competent Authorities,’ the project will see participation from the Dutch Authority for Digital Infrastructure receive funding from the European Commission’s Technical Support Instrument (TSI).

The project will explore several institutional arrangements for proper AI governance and methods to ensure that regulations do not stifle innovation in the ecosystem.

“This is not a technological discussion. It is a societal one,” said Gabriela Ramos, Assistant Director-General for Social and Human Sciences of UNESCO. “To shape the technological development of AI, we need effective governance frameworks underpinned by the ethical and moral values we all hold dear.”

UNESCO will take the lead in the project, pledging to roll out a comprehensive report on the status of AI supervision globally in the coming days. The UN agency will follow its report with the development of case studies and the publication of best practices to govern AI supervisory cases.

Before the end of the project, UNESCO disclosed that it would organize multiple training sessions to sharpen the supervisory abilities of Dutch regulators regarding AI.

This is not UNESCO’s first rodeo with AI regulation, as back in September, the agency urged authorities to roll out tighter restrictions on the deployment of generative AI products in schools. At the time, UNESCO pushed for data protection, age restriction, and in-depth scrutiny of generative AI tools before their usage in schools.

“Generative AI can be a tremendous opportunity for human development, but it can also cause harm and prejudice,” said UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay.

In 2021, UNESCO member states ratified its recommendations on the ethics of AI, with the agency playing a leading role in the application of the convention.

A flurry of supervision attempts

Across the EU, several nations have attempted to regulate the activities of AI developers with the primary aim of protecting consumers. In Spain, the government is advancing with plans to introduce a local regulatory agency for AI, while German politicians are seeking a consensus on the best route to limit the impact of AI on key sectors of the economy.

Despite the difference in strategies, regulators are on the same page on the need to prevent the misuse of AI technology, urging developers to comply with existing privacy and copyright laws. The incoming EU AI Act offers a glimpse into the future of regulation in the region with themes of transparency and clear labeling of AI-generated content evident in the provisions.

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