Digital Human Rights Tracking Tools and Databases: Pioneering Discussions at the Expert Roundtable

22 September 2023

The two-day Expert Roundtable on Digital Human Rights Tracking Tools and Databases (DHRTTDs) – a collaborative effort between our Geneva Human Rights Platform (GHRP) and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) – attracted key stakeholders from the human rights and technological sectors to exchange around the evolution and sustainability of digital human rights tracking initiatives.

During two days – 14 and 15 September 2023 – more than 30 DHRTTD developers and users representing different permanent missions, national ministries, international and regional organizations, national human rights institutions, civil society organizations and academia delved into the transformation digital tools bring to the human rights landscape.

‘This Expert Roundtable fostered an environment for robust dialogue, collaboration, and strategic thinking. The shared objective was evident: a commitment to advancing human rights monitoring, implementation, and follow-up using innovative digital tools. The discussions and outcomes will shape the trajectory of DHRTTDs on both national and international scales, ensuring they remain effective and indispensable in the pursuit of human rights’ explains Felix Kirchmeier, Executive Director of the Geneva Human Rights Platform.

Addressing Challenges and Opportunities around Accessibility, Sustainability and Interoperability

Participants discussed the many challenges and opportunities surrounding DHRTTDs’ accessibility, sustainability, and interoperability.

Accessibility took centre stage as participants addressed open and limited access to DHRTTDs, web accessibility for persons with disabilities, and the need for tools available in various global languages. These sub-themes align with the universal principles of human rights, emphasizing the critical role of inclusive participation for accurate data collection and human rights implementation. The essence of inclusivity was further underscored by specific strategies ensuring DHRTTDs cater to the needs of persons with disabilities, as well as the importance of linguistic diversity in these tools.

Sustainability discussions highlighted the long-term viability of these digital tools. Attendees debated coordination in data collection, solutions to staff turnover, techniques to boost user adoption, and the establishment of strong partnerships for consistent support. Investment, funding opportunities, and the integration of technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning were also at the forefront of the conversation, considering both the opportunities and ethical considerations they bring.

Interoperability, another key theme, showcased the importance of synergy among various DHRTTDs. Through cooperation initiatives, automated interactions, knowledge-sharing platforms, and a potential roadmap for 2024, participants explored ways to maximize the potential of digital tools for comprehensive data collection and a less fragmented human rights tracking approach.

Expert meeting programme

Key Takeaways

The discussion’s valuable insights and main conclusions will contribute to next year’s GHRP activities as well as to the final report of its one-year study on DHRTTDs:

  1. Prioritizing Web Accessibility: As digital platforms become primary sources of information dissemination, ensuring web accessibility emerges as a paramount concern, with the need to ensure that these tools are designed to be inclusive for everyone, especially for persons with disabilities. Incorporating technologies like screen readers, captions, easy navigation, and compatibility with assistive devices ensures that all individuals can engage with these tools effectively.
  2. Synergizing Platforms for Greater Impact: The collaboration and integration of different DHRTTDs present unparalleled opportunities. By fostering synergy between various platforms, stakeholders can harness the collective power of multiple tools, offering more comprehensive solutions, amplifying reach, and generating new avenues for effective human rights monitoring.
  3. Harnessing AI Responsibly: While AI is an indispensable component of contemporary digital landscapes and offers immense promise in enhancing data analysis and reporting, its adoption is not without challenges. The use of AI in the human rights domain necessitates strict ethical guidelines, rigorous bias-check mechanisms, and comprehensive transparency protocols to ensure that its deployment promotes, rather than compromises, human rights.
  4. State-Led Empowerment of National Mechanisms for Implementation, Reporting, and Follow-up (NMIRFs): To realize DHRTTDs’ full potential, states must take proactive steps. This entails fortifying NMIRFs and nurturing a culture of collaboration among various national stakeholders. By reinforcing NMIRFs and encouraging inter-agency cooperation, states can facilitate more efficient tracking, reporting, and implementation of human rights recommendations.

‘Incorporating these takeaways into future strategic planning will ensure that the human rights community remains agile, informed, and equipped to address the evolving challenges and opportunities of the digital age. We extend our heartfelt thanks to the German Federal Foreign Office for its invaluable support of our initiative on DHRTTDs. The common interest among participants to meet again in 2024, together with the identified takeaways for the future, will serve as guiding beacons, steering our collective efforts towards a more inclusive, effective, and responsive human rights ecosystem’ says Dr Domenico Zipoli, GHRP Project Coordinator.

‘Considering the increasing demand for information flow between various stakeholders and UN and regional human rights mechanisms, we firmly believe that the digitalization of processes related to reporting, monitoring and implementing human rights obligations may become an inevitable step that all, including States, National Human Rights Institutions, and civil society organizations, should contemplate and embrace. In our contemporary world, the use of relevant digital tools has proved to be effective in implementing the human rights agenda as well as in contributing to applying human rights principles such as accountability and participation’ adds Mahamane Cisse Gouro, Director of the Human Rights Council and Treaty Mechanisms Division at OHCHR.

MORE ON THIS THEMATIC AREA

View of participants in the training course on UN human rights system News

Geneva Human Rights Platform Expands Training Hub with New Courses in 2023

18 September 2023

The GHRP introduced two innovative courses to enhance its Training Hub offerings, which delved into the realm of international human rights standards and system and into business and human rights.

Read more

A general view of participants during the 54nd session of the Human Rights Council News

New Paper Unlocks the Potential of the UN Human Rights Council in Global Conflict Prevention

3 November 2023

Our new policy brief Delivering the Right to Peace: Towards a Reinforced Role of the Human Rights Council in the UN's Peace and Security Framework delves into the possibilities of enhancing the Human Rights Council's involvement in the UN's peace and security functions.

Read more

Event

The Recovery Channel

13 March 2024, 18:30-21:30

This one-night-only film screening of The Recovery Channel will dissect this intersection and address the human rights violations witnessed in today's mental health care system and practices.

Read more

Logo of the Atlas Network Event

Women's Perspectives on a Career in International Law: Navigating Humanitarian Negotiations

7 March 2024, 12:30-13:30

This event, co-organized with the ATLAS network, will feature women with diverse experiences and career paths in international law, specifically emphasizing their involvement in humanitarian negotiations.

Read more

Garment workersto receive food from their factory during lunch time. This food is freely provided by their factory in order to ensure that workers eat healthy and hygienic food. Training

Business and Human Rights

2-6 September 2024

This training course will examine how the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights have been utilized to advance the concept of business respect for human rights throughout the UN system, the impact of the Guiding Principles on other international organizations, as well as the impact of standards and guidance developed by these different bodies.

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

George Floyd protest in Washington D.C. Project

Promoting and Protecting the Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association and Civic Space Worldwide

Started in June 2020

This project aims at providing support to the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association Clément Voulé by addressing emerging issues affecting civic space and eveloping tools and materials allowing various stakeholders to promote and defend civic space.

Read more

Online folders Project

Digital Human Rights Tracking Tools and Databases

Started in March 2023

This initiative wishes to contribute to better and more coordinated implementation, reporting and follow-up of international human rights recommendations through a global study on digital human rights tracking tools and databases.

Read more

Cover Page of Research Brief Publication

Environmental Human Rights as a Tool in Early Warning and Conflict Prevention The Role of the Human Rights Council

published on January 2024

Erica Harper, Baïna Ubushieva

Read more

Cover page of the Research Brief Publication

The Evolving Neurotechnology Landscape: Examining the Role and Importance of Human Rights in Regulation

published on December 2023

Erica Harper

Read more