Bridging Governance Gaps in the Age of Technology: A Discussion on the State Duty to Protect

11 MARCH 2021

11 March 2021

States and other stakeholders have increasingly recognized the need to adopt more effective regulatory and policy responses to the growing risks posed by digital technologies. A variety of States are currently considering regulatory and policy measures to better frame the development and uses of technologies such as artificial intelligence at the national and multilateral level.

An online expert consultation co-organized by the Geneva Academy and the United Nations (UN) Human Rights’ B-Tech Project – which aims to advance the implementation of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human rights (UNGPs) in the technology space – discussed regulatory and policy responses to human rights challenges linked to digital technologies.

The UNGPs and the Governance of New Technologies

The UNGPs provide a framework for States to address the governance of new technologies and their impact on human rights. The 30 experts – from government, national human rights institution, business, academia, civil society and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) – discussed the key features of the UNGPS’ State duty to protect pillar and provided comments on a draft foundational paper for B-Tech Project Focus Area 4 that set the frame for the consultation.

The consultation covered all aspects of this pillar, including:

  • States implementing a ‘smart mix of policy and regulatory measures, both nationally and where relevant, via international approaches.
  • Potential opportunities created by trends towards mandatory human rights due diligence, which would apply to a large number of technology companies.
  • Situations where States contract with, partner with, license from or support technology companies (‘State-Business Nexus’).
  • How to increase State capacity and internal policy coherence to address the complexity, scale and fast-evolving nature of the technology industry.

The soon-to-be-published foundational paper serves as a conversation starter on the State duty to protect human rights in the technology space, and policy and legislative incentives to require business to respect human rights.

Passenger scrolling on a phone

Placing Human Rights at the Centre of Policy and Regulation

 ‘Human rights and international human rights law must be at the centre of regulatory frameworks developed to accompany the development of digital technologies. We will continue to collaborate with OHCHR and its B-Tech Project to conduct much-needed research to identify ways of placing international human rights law at the centre of policy and regulation’ explains Dr Ana Beduschi, Associate Research Fellow at the Geneva Academy.

MORE ON THIS THEMATIC AREA

View of Fiji Island News

Third and Final Treaty Body Follow-Up Review Pilot to Take Place in Fiji

13 November 2023

Following Sierra Leone and Grenada, the third and final UN human rights treaty body follow-up review pilot will take place in Fiji with the participation of three Pacific Small Island Developing States, namely Fiji, Tonga and Vanuatu.

Read more

A person with a portable brain scanner News

New Paper Sets the Scene for Neurotechnology Regulation and the Role of Human Rights

4 December 2023

Our new Research Brief The Evolving Neurotechnology Landscape: Examining the Role and Importance of Human Rights in Regulation provides a comprehensive background analysis on the complexities of regulating neurotechnology and the role of human rights in this process and marks the inception of our research project on neurotechnology and human rights.

Read more

A general view of participants during of the 33nd ordinary session of the Human Rights Council. Training

The Universal Periodic Review and the UN Human Rights System: Raising the Bar on Accountability

11-15 November 2024

This training course will explore the origin and evolution of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) and its functioning in Geneva and will focus on the nature of implementation of the UPR recommendations at the national level.

Read more

Open dump Training

Protecting Human Rights and the Environment

2-20 September 2024

Participants in this training course, made of two modules, will examine the major international and regional instruments for the promotion of human rights and the environment, familiarizing themselves with the respective implementation and enforcement mechanisms.

Read more

Plastic pollution on an Italian shore Project

Unpacking the Human Right to a Healthy Environment: Definition, Implementation and Impact

Started in January 2022

This research aims at mainstreaming the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment and the protection it affords in the work of the UN Human Rights Council, its Special Procedures and Universal Periodic Review, as well as in the work of the UN General Assembly and UN treaty bodies.

Read more

Session of a UN Treaty Body Project

Treaty Bodies Individual Communications Procedures

Started in January 2019

Read more

Cover Page of Research Brief Publication

Unpacking the Burgeoning Challenge of Environmental Protection and the Right to Food in the Context of Armed Conflict

published on April 2024

Erica Harper, Junli Lim

Read more

Cover of the publication Publication

Briefing N° 23: The Human Rights Data Revolution

published on April 2024

Domenico Zipoli

Read more