To highlight the necessity of a human rights-based approach to regulatory efforts in the technology sector, the Geneva Academy co-organized with the UN Human Rights B-Tech Project and the Centre for Democracy & Technology’s Europe Office a multi-stakeholder consultation that was attended by business, academia, civil society and state representatives.
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The experts provided their views on how the United Nations (UN) Human Rights B-Tech project can support states through the development of a ‘UNGPs check’ tool (working title). Such a tool would allow policymakers and other stakeholders to assess whether their regulatory or incentive-based initiatives directed at the technology sector align with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs).
Lene Wendland, Chief, Business and Human Rights at UN Human Rights highlighted ‘our current idea is that the UNGPs check would provide states with a roadmap to assess that their efforts across different policy domains relevant to tech/tech companies’ operations, products and services are aligned with the UNGPs.’
‘Recently, the technology sector has seen several new developments in mandatory measures proposed and adopted by states. For instance, mandatory human rights due diligence legislations are increasingly relevant for the technology sector, as technologies such as AI have proven to have a wide-range negative impacts on human rights’ explains Dr Ana Beduschi, Senior Research Fellow at the Geneva Academy.
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To illustrate the potential use of the ‘UNGPs check’ tool, participants discussed the provisions for due diligence, risk assessment and oversight in the draft Digital Services Act (DSA) in the European Union – which aims at establishing a common set of rules for online intermediary services’ obligations and the protection of users’ human rights online – and discussed how the ‘UNGPs check’ tool could support its implementation.
‘To align with international human rights standards, the due diligence provisions in the DSA must introduce a clearer obligation for companies to adopt a human rights lens to the impact of their products and services. This should include scrutinising government-ordered take-down requests and resisting those that are not compatible with human rights’ adds Iverna McGowan, Director of the Centre for Democracy & Technology’s Europe Office.
Participants agreed that the stakes for EU policy-makers are high. More broadly, policy-makers globally need to understand how regulatory efforts around tech in one jurisdiction will shape how the corporate responsibility to respect human rights is interpreted in the tech sector, and might, in turn, affect regulation in another jurisdiction. Ideally, the ‘UNGPs check’ would construct bridges between different expert communities and across jurisdictions to foster a strong basis regarding the corporate responsibility to respect human rights in the technology sector – and build a concise, coherent and rights-respecting regulatory framework.
To address the technology industry’s complexity, scale, and fast-evolving nature, states should have at their disposal regulatory elements allowing them to require technology companies to respect human rights. In doing so, it is important that states increase their capacity and maintain policy coherence when adopting regulatory and policy measures aimed at the technology sector. Similarly, states play an important role in providing effective remedies for human rights harm arising from or related to technology companies’ conduct.
Our research project on disruptive technologies and rights-based resilience – funded by the Geneva Science-Policy Interface – precisely supports the development of regulatory and policy responses to human rights challenges linked to digital technologies.
The Geneva Academy will continue to collaborate with the UN Human Rights’ B-Tech Project, to provide academic expertise concerning the potential uses of the ‘UNGPs check’ tool, its scope, format and reach.
In this interview, Diana Cristina Corredor Gil tells us about the programme, what she plans to do after and life in Geneva.
From 7 to 9 December 2021, the Geneva Human Rights Platform conducted in Sierra Leone and in collaboration with the Commonwealth Secretariat a pilot of a United Nations (UN) treaty bodies (TBs) focused review – i.e. a review carried out between the reporting cycles at the national level and designed to discuss how countries implement specific recommendations issued by UN TBs.
This event marks the launch of our LLM alumna Jelena Plamenac’s award-winning book ‘Unravelling Unlawful Confinement in Contemporary Armed Conflicts’ published by Brill.
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This online bilingual workshop, held in English and Italian, aims to raise awareness about the upcoming changes to the European Union (EU) seed marketing legislation and what this reform means in the Italian context.
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This training course will explore the major international and regional instruments for the promotion of human rights, as well as with their implementation and enforcement mechanisms; and provide practical insights into the different UN human rights mechanisms pertinent to advancing environmental issues and protecting environmental human rights defenders.
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.
The Geneva Human Rights Platform contributes to this review process by providing expert input via different avenues, by facilitating dialogue on the review among various stakeholders, as well as by accompanying the development of a follow-up resolution to 68/268 in New York and in Geneva.