UNESCO: Artificial Intelligence and the Rule of Law

Interview with Dr. Tawfik Jelassi, UNESCO Assistant Director-General on the upcoming General Conference in November, when country members submit the draft text of a global framework for Ethical AI.

Judicial Systems, Artificial Intelligence, and Rule of Law

This coming November, at UNESCO's General Conference, the recommendations to guide the development and deployment of Artificial Intelligence will be presented in the hope of establishing a global ethical framework. The draft text was negotiated among country-members and stakeholders in the fields of technology and law for the past two years, and it incorporates the results of surveys and consultations with other civil society actors as well.

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UNESCO offered training in AI and the rule of law to 23.000 members of the judicial system in 150 countries so far, and will continue the roll-out of AI and the rule of law courses in early 2022 (registration starts in November), as countries are asking for guidance in the development of their policies and in a broad range of governance issues.

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What are the main issues that are addressed on this proposal for a global framework on the ethical uses of AI?

UNESCO has also recently concluded an AI readiness assessment of 32 countries in Africa. What were the top issues that surfaced, which of these issues are common to all countries and which are unique to each?  For example, what are fragile countries’ needs versus countries in post-conflict stages, and what does the latter requires, and what data governance countries experiencing peace process interventions must have in place, such as refugee camps? 

To get an overview of UNESCO’s programs and upcoming agenda we interviewed Dr. Tawfik Jelassi, UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Communication and Information. In August he led UNESCO’s delegation on the G20 meeting of Digital Ministers, that focused on “Technology: People, Planet, Prosperity”.

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For our interview he spoke at length about Africa, and the risks, threats and benefits of AI for society, in particular in the higher education and governance areas. Dr. Jelassi also spoke about the recent survey conducted to evaluate the different needs of governments to deploy and continue to expand the use of AI in public services in African countries.


Dr. Tawfik Jelassi was appointed UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Communication and Information on July 1st, 2021. He is responsible for UNESCO’s programs that build inclusive knowledge societies, lead digital transformation, strategize the role of ICT in education, and foster freedom of expression.

Dr. Jelassi holds an Information Systems Ph.D. from New York University, Stern School of Business, and postgraduate diplomas from the University of Paris Dauphine.

Most recently he was Programme Director and Professor of Strategy and Technology Management at IMD Business School, Switzerland, from 2015 to June 2021. 

He served as Minister of Higher Education, Scientific Research, Information and Communication Technologies in the democratic transition government of Tunisia, from 2014 to 2015.  Prior appointments include being Chairman of the Board of Directors of Ooredoo Telecom in Tunisia, Dean at Ecole Nationale des Ponts et Chaussées in Paris, and Professor & Chairman of the Technology Management Department at INSEAD’s, Fontainebleau campus.

Interview with Dr. Catherine Van De Heyning

UN Human Rights Council

Advisory Committee Report on Emerging Technologies

Dr. Catherine Van de Heyning is a professor of European Fundamental Rights Law at the University of Antwerp, and a member of the UN Human Rights Council Advisory Committee. The Advisory Committee recently presented four reports to the UN Human Rights Council, to address the impact of emerging technologies on the promotion and protection of human rights, another on gender inequalities, a third on the pervasiveness of racism, and the fourth on terrorism.

The UN Brief interviewed Dr. Van de Heyning on the main points of the report.

What has been identified as a risk to democracy?

What are the recommendations of the Advisory Committee?

What are the positive aspects of new technologies in promoting human rights?

What is the role of the Human Rights Council in parsing through this vast field and looking at each technology and addressing its impact on civic life?

We spoke about these and more. Watch.

The Advisory Committee is a rotating 18-member body composed of independent experts, from a wide geographic distribution. They are legal scholars, academics, or held office in the areas of human rights promotion in their respective countries.

The Past is Always Present

The UN Brief interviewed Peter Pregaman, Associated Press news director for the Western region of the US. He just published a book on the impeachment of Dilma Rousseff in 2016, the first female president of Brazil, together with his colleague Mauricio Savarese. The book draws from their reporting of the proceedings at the time, that they covered extensively, examining the political context that led to her ouster.

We also spoke about the series of stories, Lives Lost, on the plight of the nurses that were on the front lines at the start of the sanitary crisis and people who lost loved ones to COVID, that won a Dart Award for Trauma Reporting, in 2020.

It is a beautiful photographic essay and reportage, a poignant reminder of the losses families suffered.

Peter Prengaman: For California’s COVID Nurses, Past and Present Collide

AP’s “Lives Lost” Series, Inside The Outbreak

Interview with diplomat Gerardo Diaz Bartolome on the positive impact of digital communications in diplomacy

We discussed the many positive changes for diplomats that were quick to embrace new digital tools to continue their work during the pandemic. Bartolome was till recently Deputy Chief of Mission at Argentina’s Embassy in the US, in Washington D.C., and previous to that he was at Argentina’s Mission to the UN in New York.