Collaborating with the United Nations

A major focus of the HRBDT project is contributing to the articulation of how human rights standards apply to AI, by engaging with key stakeholders throughout the UN space.  This has taken many forms, including launching the HRBDT report  ‘The Universal Declaration of Human Rights at 70’ at the UN Human Rights Council’s 40th session; completing a literature review for OHCHR, looking at misinformation and disinformation in the human rights context; and co-organising both an expert meeting with OHCHR at RightsCon Tunis and a conference with OHCHR and Human Asia at Korea University, to explore access to justice and remedies for groups and individuals whose human rights have been affected by the use of AI technologies.  Full details of these collaborations are set out elsewhere in this newsletter.

In addition, the past year has seen  major collaboration between HRBDT and UN member states, mechanisms of the UN Human Rights Council and the OHCHR.  Building on its previous work, HRBDT engaged informally with states working on the resolution on  ‘Privacy in the Digital Age’  at the 42nd session of the Council and made substantive contributions to text of the resolution to strengthen the commitment to human rights law.

In June,  Dr Ahmed Shaheed highlighted  the impact of digital technologies on the work of the mandate holders appointed by the Human Rights Council to the Co-ordinating Committee of the UN special procedures. At the Annual Meeting of the Special Procedures Mandate Holders in Geneva, HRBDT presented its report, ‘The Universal Declaration of Human Rights at 70’  highlighting the full rights implications of digital technologies.  It also presented its proposals on ‘International Human Rights Law as a Framework for Algorithmic Accountability’, stressing the importance of human rights due diligence in the design, development and deployment  of new technologies.

In further collaboration with the UN’s special procedures, Vivian Ng and Professor Pete Fussey contributed to the preparation by the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Assembly and Association on FoAA of the thematic report ‘Rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association in the digital age’  (A/HRC/41/41), engaging with thematic workshops in Geneva and Nairobi and using HRBDT research to support the underlying analysis.

The HRBDT project, through Dr Ahmed Shaheed, UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, has also made further representations to the UN, exploring in two reports technology-related impacts on freedom of religion or belief.  In his March 2019  report to the UN Human Rights Council on freedom of expression and freedom of religion or belief (A/HRC/40/58), Dr Shaheed highlighted some of the chilling effects of technology on the manifestation of religion or belief. His second report  (A/74/358) was presented to the UN General Assembly in September 2019 examined the challenge policymakers are facing in responding to rising online expressions of antisemitic hatred.