Publicly available generative AI (GenAI) tools are rapidly emerging, and the release of iterative versions is outpacing the adaptation of national regulatory frameworks. UNESCO’s first global guidance on GenAI in education aims to support countries to implement immediate actions, plan long-term policies and develop human capacity to ensure a human-centred vision of these new technologies. The guidance presents an assessment of potential risks GenAI could pose to core humanistic values and outlines requirements for GenAI providers to enable their ethical and effective use in education. It proposes key steps for governmental agencies to regulate the use of GenAI and calls on the international community to reflect on their long-term implications for knowledge, teaching, learning and assessment. The publication offers concrete recommendations for policy-makers and education institutions on how the uses of GenAI tools can be designed to protect human agency and genuinely benefit students, teachers and researchers.