Technology and human rights

Photo:EFE/Sohail Shahzad

Series co-sponsored with Business & Human Rights Resource Centre and University of Washington Rule of Law Initiative.

Examples of how technology can be used as a powerful tool for human rights are ever expanding.  Newer technologies such as artificial intelligence, automation, and blockchain have the potential to make significant positive contributions to the promotion and protection of human rights. 

At the same time, however, rapid developments in artificial intelligence, automation and robotics raise serious questions about potential adverse human rights impacts and the future of work and rights of workers.  

The role of businesses, who will both create and utilize new technologies, is a critical issue.  Will the private sector develop and deploy technologies in a way that is consistent with respect for human rights, and that builds in appropriate safeguards to prevent and mitigate negative human rights outcomes?  At the same time, governments must also focus on their duty and examine how to ensure that businesses act responsibly.

The growth of these technologies raises important questions about whether our current policies, legal systems, and documentation and advocacy strategies are sufficient to mitigate the human rights risks that may result, many of which are still unknown. This series examines the potential and actual human rights risks posed by these technologies and how the human rights field can respond by exploring the following questions:

  • How can technology be a powerful force in support of human rights and what are the key human rights risks associated with the rapid expansion of newer technologies, such as artificial intelligence, automation, and blockchain?

  • How can norms and approaches in the business and human rights field, including use of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, help prevent or mitigate human rights risks of new technologies and hold companies developing these new technologies accountable?

  • What actions can rights advocates take to ensure that technological advances do not exacerbate inequality for those who are already among the most marginalized?

  • How does the deployment and development of these new technologies impact sustainable development and the promotion of human rights in the Global South?

Collaborating Partners (April 2018 onwards): the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre  a global human rights non-profit organization that works with everyone to advance human rights in business and eradicate abuse; and, the University of Washington Rule of Law Initiative. 

For more on the latest news and resources regarding technology and human rights, visit the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre’s technology and human rights portal.