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Tuesday, November 29 • 4:40pm - 6:00pm
Mandating responsible business conduct in the technology sector – Advancing the UNGPs in regulatory debates

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Interpretation provided in English, French and Spanish

Session organized by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in collaboration with the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights 

Over the past years there has been an increasing focus on the interrelationship between human rights and technology. The Human Rights Council, OHCHR and UN human rights mechanisms, including the Working Group on business and human rights, have highlighted that the promise of digital technologies for transformational change to the benefit of humanity can only be realised when effectively guarding against the risk of harm to people. Government responses to the challenges have been – or risk being – reactive and ad hoc, overlooking at times the existing frameworks and standards that provide principled and rights-based responses. For their part, technology companies have called for more clarity and guidance on how to meet expectations for responsible business conduct. Civil society actors and particularly rights holders have also been strong in exposing the risks and demanding effective prevention and remedy.. l

The authoritative global standard for preventing and addressing human rights harms connected to business activity, including in the tech sector, is the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs), endorsed by the Human Rights Council in its resolution 17/4 of 16 June 2011. Taking stock of the first decade of the implementation of the Guiding Principles, the Working Group on business and human rights further stressed that the UNGPs provided a compelling starting point for companies and States seeking to address the potential harms of digital technologies by effectively managing associated risks to people, as they precisely sought to manage the gap between rapid change and the capacity of society to manage its consequences. Participation of rights holders in building the much needed solutions.

An increasing number of States are elaborating policy frameworks at the national and multilateral level regarding the development and use of digital technologies such as those based on Big Data, Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence. Other regulatory developments, such as those related to Mandatory Human Rights Due Diligence requirements for companies, may also have implications for how technology companies design, develop, and sell products and services, for example by mandating greater transparency over the decisions they make, and putting in place safeguards and oversight.

In order to provide enhanced clarity for policymakers and other key stakeholders working on regulatory proposals regarding business conduct in the technology sector, the B-Tech Project is developing a “UNGPs compass” tool that would allow policy makers and other stakeholders to assess whether regulatory or incentive-based initiatives directed at tech align with the UNGPs.

The purpose of the “UNGPs compass” will be to inform the choice of design and policy options/instruments for draft legislation and incentive-based initiatives aiming at rights-respecting conduct of tech companies. The aim is to offer a set of core elements that can serve as the analytical grid for rights-respecting tech regulation and policy incentives and that is useful and meaningful for all stakeholders.

The “UNGPs compass” will provide States with a roadmap to check that their efforts across different policy domains relevant to tech/tech companies’ operations, products and services are aligned with the UNGPs. The key messages and features of the “UNGPs compass” will aim to foster a Business & Human Rights angle in tech and advocate for it.

The session builds on:
  • The B-Tech foundational paper on Bridging Governance Gaps in the Age of Technology – Key Characteristics of the State Duty to Protect
  • Research Brief by the B-Tech and the Geneva Academy on “Regulating Business Conduct in the Technology Sector: Gaps and Ways Forward in Applying the UNGPs”
  • Human Rights Council Report on the practical application of the UNGPs to the activities of technology companies (A/HRC/50/56) and its Addendum (A/HRC/50/56/Add.1)

The purpose of the session is three-fold:
  • First, to discuss the human rights risks associated to the tech sector and how they are currently being addressed
  •    Second, to discuss implications from existing tech as well as business & human rights regulation and identify lessons learnt
  •    Third, to present and discuss the proposed building blocks of a “UNGPs compass” guidance tool for policy makers

avatar for Isabel Ebert

Isabel Ebert

OHCHR B-Tech / University of St. Gallen
Adviser UN Human Rights' Business, Human Rights and Technology (B-Tech) project and Senior Research Fellow, Institute for Business Ethics, University of St. Gallen. Isabel served as the former EU representative of the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre and holds a PhD in Business Ethics, with a focus on data governance in the state-business nexus from the U... Read More →
avatar for Lene Wendland

Lene Wendland

Chief Business and Human Rights, OHCHR
Lene Wendland is Chief of the Business and Human Rights Unit in UN Human Rights and leads UN Human Rights’ thematic work on business and human rights. She was part of the team of former Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General on Business and Human Rights, Professor John... Read More →
avatar for Ncumisa Willie

Ncumisa Willie

Senior Manager– Digital Human Right, MTN
avatar for Gayarati Khandhadai

Gayarati Khandhadai

Head of Technology and Human Rights, Business and Human Rights Resource Centre
Gaya joined the Resource Centre in February 2022 as the Head of Technology and Human Rights. She is a lawyer with a background in international law and human rights, international and regional human rights mechanisms, research, and advocacy. She previously worked with national and... Read More →
avatar for Lisa Ko-En Hsin

Lisa Ko-En Hsin

Research Fellow, University of Oxford
Dr Lisa Ko-En Hsin is the Helsby-Kroll Post-doctoral Fellow in Business and Human Rights at the Bonavero Institute of Human Rights at the University of Oxford. She is a Junior Research Fellow at Corpus Christi College and a tutor in Contract Law and Regulations. Lisa’s work critically... Read More →

Tuesday November 29, 2022 4:40pm - 6:00pm CET
Room XX