07.10.2021 - UNESCO

UNESCO at the 76th General Assembly of the United Nations

Between September 14 and 30, world leaders gathered at the United Nations Headquarters in New York to address the 76th session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA 76) and discuss the most sweeping and urgent themes of today: Building resilience through hope to recover from COVID-19, rebuild sustainably, respond to the needs of the planet, respect the rights of people, and revitalise the United Nations. UNESCO Director General also took an active part in the UNGA 76 High Level Segment and held several bilateral meetings to discuss repositioning of UNESCO within SDGs implementation. UNESCO programme sectors co/organized virtual High Level side events that took place on the margins of the General Assembley, whose highlights we are sharing below:

“Promoting Transparency to Counter Disinformation and Build Trust”

On 27 September, together with the Office of the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Technology, the UN Department of Global Communications, UN Global Pulse, UNDP, and the WHO, UNESCO organized an online panel discussion on “Promoting Transparency to Counter Disinformation and Build Trust”. The side session featured a discussion between UN Agencies, Member States, civil society organizations, and companies to learn about the biggest challenges they face in countering disinformation while upholding freedom of expression and to identify solutions for improved cross-collaboration. UNESCO’s Assistant Director-General for Communication and Information, Tawfik Jelassi, stressed the need for international collaboration to leverage transparency as tool to fight misinformation and disinformation, particularly highlighting the 26 principles outlined in the UNESCO Issue Brief Letting the Sun Shine In: Transparency and Accountability in the Digital Age. On the occasion of the event, two discussions papers produced over the course of interagency dialogues were released: “Selection of data from online platforms that would enable better understanding of disinformation online and efforts to counter it” and “Shared UN considerations for online communications companies on the issues of countering disinformation and enhancing transparency”.

“Closing the Global Knowledge Gaps to Build Back Better: The Potential of Open Science”

On 28 September, celebrating the International Day for Universal Access to Information, UNESCO organized a high-level event on “Closing the Global Knowledge Gaps to Build Back Better: The Potential of Open Science”. The event brought together governments, UN agencies, scientists and practitioners to reflect on opportunities and challenges in providing universal access to scientific information and opening the practice of science beyond the traditional scientific community. In opening the event, UNESCO’s Assistant Director-General for Natural Sciences, Shamila Nair–Bedouelle, emphasized that it is imperative to ensure that the scientific process is open and accessible, and informed that UNESCO, as tasked by its Member States, developed the first international standard setting instrument to provide a global framework for Open Science based on shared values such as quality, integrity, collective benefits, equity, fairness, diversity, inclusiveness. The draft UNESCO Recommendation on Open Science is submitted for adoption by the UNESCO General Conference in November 2021. UNESCO’s Assistant Director-General for Communication and Information, Tawfik Jelassi, underlined that access to information must be recognized as a pillar of sustainable development, and as an prerequisite for the promotion and the protection of all of human rights. The panel discussion illustrated how Open Science contributes to strengthening the science-policy-society interface and promotes citizens’ engagement in scientific experiments and data collection for the good of humanity, bridges knowledge divides between the North and South, makes the scientific process more accessible and participatory and promotes an inclusive scientific communication amongst young researchers.

“Education and Technological Transformations for Human-centered Recovery”

On 29 September, heeding the call of the United Nations General Assembly to leverage the potential of technological transformations for quality, equitable and inclusive education, the Permanent Mission of Japan to the UN teamed up with UNESCO and organized a high-level dialogue on “Education and Technological Transformations for Human-centered Recovery”. The event highlighted the unprecedented technological changes in education, both as means to mitigate the negative impact of COVID 19 and as a trend to be reckoned with. It also explored opportunities to unlock the potential of the Global Education Coalition to recover and further promote SDG4 through innovative technological solutions. Chairing the meeting, UNESCO’s Assistant Director-General for Education, Stefania Giannini, recalled the focus on reopening schools safely and urged the international community to ensure access to distance and hybrid learning for all. She underscored the urgency to make education systems more adaptive and resilient to future shocks and informed that UNESCO and partners are working to launch a Declaration on connectivity and education. The panel featured high-level panelists of the OneAfricanChild Foundation for Creative Learning, Global Partnership for Education, Ministers of Education of Cameroon and Colombia as well as key partners of the Coalition. Ministers highlighted the importance of UNESCO’s support in ensuring the continuity of learning, particularly through the establishment of the ImaginEcole platform, and the Global Skills Academy, which provided free online training to equip young people with skills for employability and resilience. Stressing the importance of sustainable financing, the GPE’s representative introduced the COVID-19 global grant called “Innovation for inclusion”, funded by a $25 million GPE grant, a consortium composed of UNESCO, UNICEF and the World Bank, that develops solutions for teaching and learning continuity with the potential to be scaled up globally.

Addressing the Challenges and Maximizing the Opportunities of Artificial Intelligence: UNESCO Recommendation on the Ethics of AI

On 30 September, gearing up towards the implementation of the Recommendation on the Ethics of Artificial Intelligence, to be adopted by UNESCO’s General Conference in November 2021, UNESCO hosted a side event on “Addressing Challenges and Maximizing Opportunities of Artificial Intelligence”. The discussion centered on how the Recommendation may serve as a global instrument for the ethical design, development and deployment of AI, in order to seize the opportunities offered by this general purpose technology while addressing the challenges that AI poses. The event was moderated by Gabriela Ramos, Assistant Director General for the Social and Human Sciences Sector and featured high-level pannelists from civil society, the private sector, government and academia. Speakers underlined the importance of UNESCO’s draft Recommendation, especially that it goes “the extra mile”, unpacking important concepts, such as data governance, and suggesting steps to be taken throughout the Policy Areas section, in a view to enhancing the ethical development, used and deployment of AI. The speakers underscored the importance of having a Recommendation based strong principles that each stakeholder can rely upon and use, and implant in the DNA of their organization. The speakers also referred to the Ethical Impact Assessment mentioned in the Recommendation, as an important step in moving forward and translating the principles into practice.

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