WEO Weekly: The Ethics of Public Protests

by | Oct 30, 2023

The week’s top 5 Global Ethics stories, summarized.

Widespread global demonstrations are taking place around the Israel-Palestine conflict. We follow the lead of Australia’s Dr Tim Dean of The Ethics Centre (as featured in the past week’s top story) in examining some of the ethical considerations relevant to protest movements.

The intent and purpose behind a protest form its ethical foundation. When protests address systemic injustices, advocate for human rights, or aim to promote social equality, they are commonly perceived as ethical, serving a noble cause and seeking positive societal change or highlighting critical issues.

Ethical protests prioritize non-violent methods of expression, avoiding violence, property destruction, or encroachment upon others’ rights to maintain an ethical stance. Upholding the rights and safety of everyone involved, including participants and bystanders, is crucial for ethical conduct.

Transparency and honesty in a protest are key. Ethical protests are forthright about their objectives and methods, avoiding misrepresentation or deceit, which could undermine the movement’s credibility.

Protest organizers shoulder the responsibility of overseeing and guiding demonstrations. This involves ensuring participants understand the protest’s purpose, promoting peaceful conduct, and taking responsibility for any unintended consequences.

The evaluation of a protest involves considering its impact and consequences. Ethical protests aim for positive change while minimizing negative outcomes, avoiding disruption of daily life or harm to others.

The response of authorities to protests is significant. Ethical considerations encompass respecting protesters’ rights and addressing concerns constructively without resorting to excessive force or suppression.

Furthermore, ethical protests consider the long-term impacts of their actions. Achieving sustainable change involves a strategic and ethical approach that aims for lasting, positive transformation rather than momentary disruption.

Ultimately, a protest’s ethical foundation relies on its intentions, methods, and impacts, aligning with principles of non-violence, respect for rights, transparency, accountability, and a just cause. Context, societal norms, and larger consequences determine a protest’s ethical nature.

The Ethics of Protest (podcast)
Dr Tim Dean of The Ethics Centre speaks with ABC host Suzanne hill about how “protest is at the core of democracy, often providing an essential voice for its citizens. Be it politics, human rights, climate change, or race and social justice, there have been many moments in the Australian narrative where taking to the streets has at least agitated for many important social and cultural changes. But what are the ethics of protest? How far should you go for what you believe in?”

EU Ethics Body: Let’s restore citizens’ trust
The European Parliament faces a significant challenge in preserving public trust by ensuring the integrity of its officials. Recent corruption revelations sparked discussions about establishing an independent European ethics body. While the Parliament advocated for such a body, the proposed Commission falls short, lacking independence and investigative powers. Though the Parliament bolstered its internal rules, self-regulation isn’t enough. The authors call for a system akin to France’s High Authority for Transparency, aiming for integrity, control, and transparency. An external ethics body would harmonize assessment, promote integrity, and prevent ethical breaches, crucial for restoring citizen trust in European institutions.

UNESCO on the Ethics of Artificial Intelligence in Education (interview)
Maysoun Chehab, an Education Programme Specialist at UNESCO Beirut, discusses the UNESCO Recommendation on AI Ethics in Education on Al Hurra’s “Al-Youm.” The conversation highlighted AI regulation in classrooms and its global implications. Chehab emphasized maximizing AI benefits while reducing risks and the necessity of these recommendations as a normative framework. She stressed the role of schools in adapting to AI, calling for collaboration among educational authorities and stakeholders to teach students life skills for ethical AI use. Chehab advocated for human oversight in AI usage, blending AI with traditional tools, prioritizing learners’ emotional development, and social needs for an ethical and balanced educational approach.

What Are Good AI Governance Practices And AI Ethics Sources?
The discourse surrounding AI governance and ethics is expansive, marked by the multitude of international frameworks and policies. Countries are individually developing AI governance structures, causing complexity and redundancy. Although democratic nations align with OECD guidelines, international legislative frameworks remain disparate, a work in progress. Entities like UNESCO and OECD/G20 present widely supported principles. Recent developments, like the EU AI Act, Chinese regulations, and U.S. initiatives, underscore the need for legislative frameworks. Various bodies such as IEEE, NIST, and Stanford HAI offer guidance. The rapid advancement calls for companies to incorporate AI ethics experts, comply with diverse geo-political regulations, and anticipate imminent third-party AI audits for high-risk applications.

Ethical Review Systems for Emergencies
The importance of ethical preparedness in emergencies, especially in pandemics, is increasingly acknowledged for an effective research-based response. The Health Ethics and Governance Unit of the WHO gathered representatives from over twenty countries in a pre-workshop before the Global Summit of National Ethics Committees. This assembly focused on assessing experiences in ethical review during emergencies like COVID-19, aiming to enhance future emergency preparedness. The resulting recommendations highlight the need to strengthen ethical review systems at various levels and across different domains. The discussions primarily concentrated on national-level policies, particularly related to clinical trials, but emphasized the necessity for further exploration of diverse research approaches in both emergency and non-emergency situations.