New report on neurotechnology addresses its advances and challenges in Latin America and the Caribbean

By 11/12/2023 News

UNESCO has produced a new document for CILAC that seeks to contextualize the issue in the region, making visible the progress of the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean and raising challenges and public policy proposals.

In recent years, neuroscience has produced great advances in various fields, especially in the medical field, as it provides new knowledge about the functioning of the brain and cognitive processes, as well as the neurological mechanisms that underlie human behavior.

Likewise, in combination with computers, various potentialities arise through neurotechnology, which has generated important developments, such as being able to transcribe thoughts directly without the need for keyboards.

Although this can present multiple benefits for fields such as medicine, research and innovation, these possibilities are not without risks if this is governed without an ethical framework. Among others, improper use of neurotechnology could alter individual personalities and behaviors, or change memories of past events, affecting fundamental rights such as privacy, freedom of thought, free will and human dignity.

This is why ethical rules are required so that threats to human rights and dignity are adequately addressed, and that the development of neurotechnology is beneficial for all humanity. In addition to the risks, there is a geographic imbalance in the development of this field, raising concerns about equitable access to its benefits, as well as the possibility of opening a knowledge gap that could perpetuate disparities in medical care, research and innovation, among other areas.

In this context, the inclusion of the global South and especially the vision of Latin America and the Caribbean is essential to ensure that the perspectives, knowledge and experiences of a wide range of cultural, social and economic contexts are incorporated into development and applications of neurotechnologies. 

In this framework, the UNESCO Regional Office in Montevideo has prepared a report in order to contextualize and address this issue in the region, available here.

The report highlights the neuroscientific development of the countries of the region in recent years, raising in turn the challenges of equity in access to neurotechnologies, in tune with the multiple dimensions of inequalities in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Through a human rights approach, the report identifies four rights that are called to play a central role in the matter:

  • mental privacy,
  • mental integrity,
  • personal identity and
  • cognitive freedom.

The document reports on the various proposals for regulation of the matter by different international and regional organizations, as well as at the level of the legislative bodies of countries in the region. It also proposes ten public policy principles that should be taken into account in the regulation of neurotechnologies in the Latin American context.

This contribution becomes essential given that, in May 2023, the 216th Executive Council of UNESCO recommended that the 42nd General Conference grant the Social and Human Sciences Sector the mandate to develop a global normative instrument on the ethics of neurotechnology.

If this mandate is approved, this global standard will play a fundamental role in effectively addressing these challenges with a primary focus on the protection and promotion of human rights and fundamental freedoms, and based on international cooperation.

“We hope that this report can serve as a regional contribution to the construction of a comprehensive governance framework for neurotechnology. Our identity and integrity as human beings is at stake.” – highlights Gabriela Ramos, Deputy Director General of Social and Human Sciences, in the foreword to this report, highlighting the role of UNESCO as a United Nations agency in promoting the governance of emerging and converging technologies.

“At UNESCO we understand that it is essential that we build a shared global understanding of the interactions between neurotechnology, ethics and human rights, just as we have done in the past at UNESCO in relation to the human genome and artificial intelligence.” – share Ernesto Fernández Polcuch, Director of UNESCO Montevideo, in the prologue of the publication.


This new input prepared by the Social Sciences Sector is part of the series of CILAC Policy Briefs, the Latin American and Caribbean Open Science Forum.

This is a series that makes up around twenty documents prepared by experts with recognized experience in their respective fields of knowledge, with the aim of serving as guidance to the countries of the region in the search for answers to the emerging challenges of the present and the future of our countries.

He CILAC Forum is a regional platform to debate, plan and monitor effective science, technology and innovation policies to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals in Latin America and the Caribbean.

This platform has a central forum, which takes place in different cities in the region every 3 years, as well as monthly meetings with international leaders, virtual spaces to bring science to the general public, and useful publications for decision makers, among other components.

CILAC is an initiative created and led by UNESCO Montevideo, with the IDB, SEGIB, OEI, RICYT, AUGM and CUIB as regional partners.