UNESCO General Conference

Dr. Marie-Claude Machon-Honoré and Dr. Catherine Bosshart
Dr. Marie-Claude Machon-Honoré and Dr. Catherine Bosshart

The 41st UNESCO General Conference took place from 9th to 24th November 2021. There were 185 membes states, 26 Heads of governments and 100 Ministers throughout the Conference.

It was a historic time with the celebration of the 75th Anniversary of UNESCO, the re-election of DG Audrey Azoulay for another 4 year mandate, with a record majority of votes and the consensus reached by the governing bodies on the recommendations on open science and the ethics of artificial intelligence. 


The 193 Member States of UNESCO adopted a new text on 25th November which aims to give "an ethical orientation" to artificial intelligence technologies. This first global legal instrument on AI is not binding on the signatories, but advises them to adopt their own framework in order to fight against certain abuses, such as gender bias or the violation of privacy.


This is the "first global ethical framework for the use of artificial intelligence", welcomed Audrey Azoulay, Director General of UNESCO.


This text is the result of the work of a group of experts formed in March 2020 which was responsible for drawing up a draft recommendation on the ethics of Artificial Intelligence AI. A first version was drafted following an extensive consultation process that took place online, but also through workshops and regional consultations. This process resulted in more than 50,000 comments on the text. The final version of the recommendation has therefore just been adopted and is available on the UNESCO website


The Conference showed that despite the tensions UNESCO stays as necessary as ever with its universal values and a unique  place to foster dialogue for understanding diversity.

Our main representative to UNESCO and NGO-UNESCO liaison Committee elected member, Dr. Marie-Claude Machon-Honoré, was able to deliver two BPW International statements, one during the Education Commission and the other one during the plenary session of the General Conference. They were the fruit of collaboration with Lesha Witmer (alternate on the Liaison Committee) and Tess Mateo (UN New York Representative and head of the STEM Task Force).

President Catherine Bosshart visited the UNESCO headquarters and attended two days of the General Conference. The president and Dr. Marie-Claude Machon-Honoré, and Lesha Witmer on line could dialogue with the gender focal point, section of education and inclusion, and the program analyst of the division of gender equality during a meeting organised  by Dr. Marie-Claude Machon-Honoré, to introduce the new BPW International President and promote BPW International's activities as well as foster exchange with UNESCO Secretariat.

It was also the opportunity for BPW International President to meet with NGO partners we have closely been working with at UNESCO for a long time and who supported our candidacy for  the UNESCO–NGO Liaison Committee and IFBPW presentation of Dr. Marie-Claude Machon-Honoré as Chairman of the ICNGO.

Dr. Marie-Claude Machon-Honoré