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Mar 24, 2023
UNESCO spotlighted different but interlinked issues at the event on 6 March 2023 in two consecutive panels. The first panel provided policy advice for decision-makers legislating around AI while the second panel discussed concrete ways to strengthen gender equity in the rights of access to information and freedom of expression in digital spaces.
Launch of the Women 4 Ethical AI Platform
On the occasion, UNESCO launched the Women 4 Ethical AI Platform at the NGO CSW67 Forum during a high-level event on: “The Gender Digital Revolution: Addressing Ethics of Artificial Intelligence, Access to Information and Gendered Online Violence”. Itah Kandjii Murangi, Minister of Higher Education, Training and Innovation of Nambia, seized the occasion to congratulate UNESCO for this ambitious initiative.
The digital revolution offers indeed many opportunities for women’s empowerment but without an ethical framework, the development and deployment of AI threatens to reproduce gender inequalities present in the real world, and even magnify them. As societies rely more and more on the digital world, tech-enabled violence, gender-biased misinformation and fake news increase, hindering women and girls’ participation and safety online. Transcending borders, this global phenomenon requires a multilateral response.
The Platform will contribute to the realization of the UNESCO Recommendation on the Ethics of Artificial Intelligence, the first global normative standard in the field of AI adopted by all 193 Member States of the Organisation at its 41st General Conference, which offers a full chapter of action-oriented policy recommendations to address gender-related challenges in AI. The new Platform will provide a unique space for global leaders of gender quality in frontier technologies to combine their strengths and influences to implement the Recommendation through a gender lens.
Gender Equity through Access to Information and Safety of Women Journalists
The second panel tackled two crucial elements of the information eco-system through a gender lens: Access to digital Information and online safety of journalists.
Laura Neuman, author of the UNESCO policy brief on Gender Equity in the Right of Access to Information, explained that a recent survey among information commissioners showed that 75% more requests for information were made by men than by women and 90% of the appeals of a denial are made by men. In order to counter this, each country should have a strategy alongside a specific budget to ensure that access to information is equitable.
Al Jazeera journalist Ghada Oueiss gave a testimony of what it means to become the target of online attacks: ‘I wore a brave face and I grew a thick skin as I was asked to but deep down, I was really concerned about my mental health and even my physical health.’ Ghada Oueiss was one of the journalists interviewed for the UNESCO/ICFJ research project “The Chilling”, which includes a research discussion paper on the issue as well as a comprehensive set of policy recommendations.
Melissa Upreti of the UN working group against the discrimination of women and girls emphasized that women and girls encounter barriers linked to the type of information they seek and could even face reprisals, for example when seeking information on social and reproductive rights. She also pointed out the role of men in actively deconstructing barriers for women since ‘men are often the gatekeepers of information’.
The panel members proposed concrete actions that contribute to closing the gender gap in accessing and creating information. One such an initiative was highlighted by Kalypso Goula, Secretary General for Demography and Family Policy and Gender Equality of Greece, announced the establishment of an international training centre for the safety of journalists in Thessaloniki. This training center will support policy development in the area of safety of journalists as well as provide training and capacity-building measures, including psychological safety, to local and international journalists.