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B-Tech foundational paper | Bridging governance gaps in the age of technology – key characteristics of the state duty to protect

... The framework for State action is set out in the UNGP Pillar I under the heading The State Duty to Protect Human Rights which affirms that States should adopt appropriate measures to prevent and address human rights abuses involving business, including technology companies. This duty is anchored in States’ existing human rights obligations and elaborates on the legal, policy and other measures States should adopt to protect people from harm.

There is growing recognition—including by States themselves—of the need to develop more effective regulatory and policy responses to the risks associated with digital technologies... But more needs to be done to ensure that human rights are at the heart of State action to protect against the individual and societal risks posed by technology companies, while allowing the enormous potential for positive impact from digital products and services to be realized. The B-Tech project aims to contribute to the field of State policy and practice by exploring and profiling—via multi-stakeholder collaboration—how States should meet their duty to protect against human rights harms involving technology companies. ...

HEADLINES

  1. The State’s duty to protect human rights includes protecting against human rights abuses involving technology companies. This is consistent with States’ existing human rights obligations, as reaffirmed in the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. But States should not, intentionally or otherwise, roll back human rights protections when fulfilling this duty.
  2. States should apply a “smart-mix” of the regulatory and policy measures available to them to protect against human rights harms related to the products and services of technology companies, including regulatory measures and accompanying guidance, incentives, and transparency requirements.
  3. States should reflect the UNGPs’ normative expectation that companies conduct Human Rights Due Diligence related to the impacts of their products and services, in regulation and policies directed at technology companies.
  4. Where States financially support, contract with or procure from technology companies, they should actively use that opportunity to ensure that the companies they work with respect human rights.
  5. States should ensure that they have the necessary policy coherence—as well as capacity and ability—to effectively protect people against harms involving technology companies. The need for policy coherence extends to States participating in multilateral fora and multi-stakeholder processes which are essential tools in ensuring the international legitimacy, coherence and effectiveness of State action.

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