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Digital Environment Research Institute (DERI)

Professor David Leslie galvanises support for a global AI Ethics Observatory at UNESCO in Slovenia

Professor Leslie has warned of a ticking time bomb if governments and world leaders don’t proactively address the ethical issues around AI.


David Leslie, Professor of Ethics, Technology, and Society at the Digital Environment Research Institute made his keynote remarks as he co-launched the Global AI Ethics and Governance Observatory at UNESCO’s Global AI Ethics Forum in Brdo, Slovenia. The Observatory will serve as a vital resource for navigating the myriad ethical and societal risks posed by the rapid growth of artificial intelligence applications, especially generative AI technologies like ChatGPT.  

The UNESCO Forum brings together high-level decision-makers, industry leaders, and experts to explore the opportunities and challenges posed by AI. Last November, Professor Leslie led Queen Mary’s fringe event on AI during the Government’s recent AI Safety Summit and is now using his expertise to steer global frameworks for best practice. In addition to his role on the High-Level Expert Group on AI Ethics at UNESCO, he is leading efforts at the Council of Europe to co-design the Human Rights, Democracy, and the Rule of Law Impact Assessment for AI that will accompany its forthcoming AI treaty.  

Professor Leslie said: “Establishing a global observatory will bring together a dynamic community of stakeholders from around the world, amplifying the voices of those who have not yet sufficiently been included in the international AI ethics and governance discussion.  By making visible responsible AI practices, such as ethical impact assessment, we will be better placed to harness the extraordinary potential of AI safely and equitably for people around the globe.  

We know that AI systems can be transformative, for better or worse, so we must ensure that the global AI innovation ecosystem is, and remains, values-led, justice-driven, and oriented to providing society-shaped solutions to the world’s biggest challenges. The observatory will help us take a step in this direction.”  

The Observatory will serve as a central hub for knowledge and resources on AI ethics and governance. It will feature research, analysis, and best practices from around the world, empowering stakeholders to make informed decisions about AI development and deployment. It will also provide a first-of-its-kind platform for nations around the world to share detailed information about their readiness to advance a responsible and right-based approach to adopting AI technologies.

The inaugural group of participant states sharing this vital information includes Chile, Senegal, Brazil, and Morocco. The Observatory has been co-developed by UNESCO, ITU, and The Alan Turing Institute with support from the Patrick McGovern Foundation.   

In addition to launching the Observatory at the Global Forum on AI Ethics, UNESCO is also launching its AI Ethics Experts without Borders Programme. Professor Leslie will play a leading role in this global facility of experts, that provides on-demand support and tailored policy advice to enhance the capacity of Member States’ institutions to implement the UNESCO Recommendation on the Ethics of Artificial Intelligence.  

This initiative promotes global collaboration and ensures equitable access to expertise, regardless of resources. He will also contribute to a session titled "Re-engineering the systems: best practices and building blocks for effective governance of AI."  

This multi-stakeholder discussion tackles the crucial question of translating AI governance frameworks into practical action. Drawing on a 2023 report highlighting gaps in existing tools, experts will share best practices and exchange ideas for building truly effective AI governance solutions.

Professor Leslie also holds a joint appointment with The Alan Turing Institute, where he is the Director of Ethics and Responsible Innovation Research.

Discovery more about the Global AI Ethics and Governance Observatory on the dedicated webpage: 



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