Artificial Intelligence (AI) has enormous potential to be used for social good and achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Even as it is being used to help address many of humanity’s most critical social issues, its use is also raising concerns about infringement of human rights like the right to freedom of expression, right to privacy, data protection and non-discrimination. AI-based technologies offer major opportunities if they are developed in respect of universal norms, ethics and standards, and if they are anchored in values based on human rights and sustainable development.

The use of AI in judicial systems is being explored by judiciaries, prosecution services and other domain specific judicial bodies around the world. For example, in the criminal justice field, the use of AI systems for providing investigative assistance and automating decision-making processes is already in place in many judicial systems in different continents.

In response to the rapid developments in this field and the challenges and opportunities related to harnessing AI in judicial systems and their implications for human rights and the rule of law, UNESCO, in cooperation with its category 2 centre at the Brazilian Network Information Center ( and the IEEE are developing an online training strategy in the form of a Massive Online Open Course (MOOC) on AI and the Rule of Law.

This new activity builds on UNESCO’s successful Judges Initiative, which has already engaged more than 17,000 judicial operators coming from more than 60 countries in courses and dialogues about Freedom of Expression, Access to Information and Safety of Journalists. The UNESCO’s Judges Initiative has signed cooperation agreements with most of the regional human rights courts, with associations of Chief Justices and Attorney Generals.

This Massive Open Online Course will stimulate a participative dialogue with judicial operators on AI-related innovations in the judicial system and promote knowledge of digital innovation, while highlighting the importance of measurement and data production. It will also facilitate knowledge exchange and experience sharing among judicial operators on artificial intelligence, existing norms and standards (hard and soft law) in the field and, its implications for human rights, highlighting existing case studies and best practices that translate ethical principles into practice both in terms of the use of AI in justice systems and, in cases involving AI impacting human rights. 

Overall, this MOOC will strengthen capacities of judicial operators to address AI-related issues in their domain, ensure they are equipped with the necessary information and knowledge concerning AI-based predictive justice systems and, guarantee that prosecuting services, in AI related cases, are aware of the international human rights law as it concerns AI technology and correlated risks.

In this regard, a survey to understand the needs of judicial actors around the world is being launched in seven languages. The findings of the survey will inform the development of the online course to be launched in 2021. The survey is available online until 15.12.2020

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