Placing Human Rights at the Centre of New Tech Regulations

14 March 2022

At a multi-stakeholder consultation, business, academia, civil society and state representatives discussed the gaps and ways forward in applying the United Nations (UN) Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs) to regulate business conduct in the technology sector.

Co-organized with the UN Human Rights B-Tech Project and the Centre for Democracy & Technology’s Europe Office, the consultation allowed participants to explore how existing regulatory and legislative processes targeting technology companies align – or not – with the UNGPs.

‘An increasing number of States are elaborating policy frameworks at the national and multilateral level targeting the development and use of digital technologies. Here is where the OHCHR B-Tech Project is keen to add value by developing a guidance tool to inform policy makers on the policy and design choices when regulating technology company conduct while seeking to align such measures with the UNGPs. A balanced mix between mandatory and voluntary measures is crucial in the technology sector’ underlines Dr Isabel Ebert, Adviser to the OHCHR B-Tech Project.

‘It is essential to facilitate spaces for stakeholder exchange, with a view to develop pathways for better implementation of the UNGPs in the technology sector. The UNGPs provide a critical reference framework that will help shape effective implementation of the due diligence obligations outlined in the EU’s Digital Services Act’ explains Asha Allen, Advocacy Director for Europe at the Centre of Democracy & Technology, Europe Office.

Participants also commented on a draft guidance tool for policy-makers, proposed by the B-Tech Project Team, on how to best align the UNGPs with regulatory efforts on technology company conduct.

A Timely Exercise

Digital technologies and technology companies can have a significant impact on the enjoyment of human rights. Therefore, the UNGPs – the key framework for guiding businesses’ respect for human rights – should be at the heart of any regulatory and policy frameworks concerning the design, development and deployment of digital technologies.

Some states and regional organizations are increasingly leaning towards adopting more mandatory measures, both in the general context of business and human rights and the specific context of the application of certain digital technologies – for instance, legislative measures to prevent and mitigate online harms, and legislative measures to regulate artificial intelligence technologies. Yet there are prominent gaps in aligning regulatory efforts with the UNGPs.

‘These discussions – by bringing all the relevant stakeholders around the table – allow not only to identify the gaps but also to ensure policy coherence by way of aligning the regulation of the tech sector with human rights and the UNGPs’ says Dr Ana Beduschi, former Senior Research Fellow at the Geneva Academy.

This consultation is part of our project Disruptive Technologies and Rights-based Resilience – funded by the Geneva Science-Policy Interface – and carried out in partnership with the B-Tech Project.

MORE ON THIS THEMATIC AREA

TransMonEE Database and Dashboard Logo News

In Highlight: TransMonEE Database and Dashboard

25 April 2024

Via its DHRTTDs Directory, the Geneva Human Rights Platform provides a comprehensive list and description of such key tools and databases. But how to navigate them? Which tool should be used for what, and by whom? This interview helps us understand better the specificities of the April highlight of the directory: TransMonEE Database and Dashboard

Read more

Yemeni women live in the open after being displaced from their homes due to the war in Taiz News

New Publication Unpacks UN Human Rights Council's Potential Role in Preventing Climate-Induced Conflicts

29 January 2024

Our new Research Brief explores the potential role of the UN Human Rights Council as an actor in the prevention of climate-related conflicts, alongside other multilateral efforts within the UN system.

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 Council Project

Human Rights Conversations

Started in January 2020

A series of events aimed at discussing contemporary issues and challenges related to the promotion and protection of human rights in Geneva and beyond.

Read more

Flyer presenting the Geneva Human Rights Platform with other publications of the Geneva Academy on display Project

GHRP Briefings

Started in January 2019

The GHRP Briefings provide an opportunity for all stakeholders to discuss the results of the United Nations (UN) Treaty Body (TB) 2020 Review and practical ways to implement change.

Read more

Cover of the 2023 Geneva Academy Annual Report Publication

Annual Report 2023

published on July 2024

Read more