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Senior UNU-CPR Data Scientist Appointed Research Lead for New UN Advisory Body on AI

The role will involve identifying opportunities and governance solutions as the Body works towards a final advisory report in 2024.

The Head of UNU-CPR’s Anticipatory Action and Innovation programme, Eleonore Fournier-Tombs, has been appointed Research Lead for the UN’s new High-Level Advisory Body on Artificial Intelligence – convened by Secretary-General António Guterres to support the international governance of AI. 

Bringing together 38 experts from around the world, the Body will offer diverse perspectives and options on how AI can be governed for the common good, aligning international governance approaches with human rights and the Sustainable Development Goals.

In her role as Research Lead, Fournier-Tombs will coordinate research support to the members of the Advisory Body on AI risks, identifying opportunities and governance solutions as the Body works towards a draft of its advisory report in December 2023 and a final report in 2024.  

A leading data scientist, Fournier-Tombs has worked throughout the UN system and conducts research at the intersection of technology and gender, migration, democracy, and health. In 2021 she was awarded the UN21 Award by then Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon for her work at UN-OICT on the Rio+ 20 Conference, and between 2012 and 2015 worked for the Human Development Report Office where she managed human development data.

Fournier-Tombs subsequently worked as a data scientist at the Centre for Humanitarian Data, OCHA, contributing to modelling COVID-19 in countries experiencing humanitarian crises, and then continued this work in 2020 and 2021 at the World Bank, participating in climate-related policy research in Afghanistan, Morocco, and Jamaica.

Prior to joining UN University, she founded a research lab on Accountable AI in a Global Context at the University of Ottawa Faculty of Law, where she was one of the recipients of an IDRC grant on AI for COVID-19 in Senegal and Mali.

Responding to her appointment, Fournier-Tombs commented: “We are at a critical point globally. As we become more and more aware of the potential risks and pitfalls of AI, we are also on the cusp of immense opportunities for sustainable development. I am thrilled to be in a position where I can work with other leading experts towards more nuanced and impactful solutions that can benefit the global community.”

David Passarelli, Director of UNU-CPR, also responded to the announcement: “Eleonore’s appointment as Research Lead for the High-Level Advisory Body on Artificial Intelligence reflects the important work she has been doing at UNU-CPR and throughout the UN system on the global governance and safe use of AI. Her expertise and commitment will greatly benefit the body as it takes on one of the most pressing and consequential challenges facing humanity.”   

UNU-CPR’s Anticipatory Action and Innovation programme was initiated earlier this year to strengthen the Centre’s foresight capacity and provide guidance to the UN as it attempts to become a more future-oriented organization prepared for emerging challenges. Many of the programme’s outputs so far have focused on the ethics, policy, and governance of AI.

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