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

A meeting of the Treaty Body Members Platform News

The Treaty Body Members Platform in 2023

18 January 2024

In 2023, the Treaty Body Members Platform continued to accompany members of UN treaty bodies to address crucial issues related to their work, along with contemporary human rights challenges.

Read more

A GHRP training course News

Geneva Human Rights Platform’s Training Hub: Expanding Offerings and Partnerships for 2024

16 February 2024

2023 has been a busy and fruitful year for our Geneva Human Rights Platform’s Training Hub which starts 2024 with an enhanced offer.

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

View of a session of the UN Human Rights Committee Training

The International Human Rights Standards and System: Monitoring and Implementation Strategies at the National Level

8-12 July 2024

This training course will delve into the means and mechanisms through which national actors can best coordinate their human rights monitoring and implementation efforts, enabling them to strategically navigate the UN human rights system and use the various mechanisms available in their day-to-day work.

Read more

Panel Discussion: Project

Treaty Body Members’ Platform

Started in January 2014

The Treaty Body Members’ Platform connects experts in UN treaty bodies with each other as well as with Geneva-based practitioners, academics and diplomats to share expertise, exchange views on topical questions and develop synergies.

Read more

A destroyed camp for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Khor Abeche, South Darfur, Project

Understanding the Relationship between Conflict, Security and the Human Right to a Clean, Healthy and Sustainable Environment

Started in May 2023

This project will develop guidance to inform security, human rights and environmental debates on the linkages between environmental rights and conflict, and how their better management can serve as a tool in conflict prevention, resilience and early warning.

Read more

Cover Page of Research Brief Publication

Between Science-Fact and Science-Fiction Innovation and Ethics in Neurotechnology

published on May 2024

Milena Costas, Timo Istace

Read more