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B-Tech foundational paper | Access to remedy and the technology sector: basic concepts and principles

... Establishing a robust and comprehensive system of remedies for human rights harms will require the same focus, determination, investment and ingenuity that drive technological innovation today. Responsible technology companies recognise both the commercial and ethical urgency of this task. Not only does the non-availability of remedies risk undermining their social license to operate (which can have significant commercial and legal consequences, both in the short and long term), it is the right thing to do. Placing human rights imperatives at the heart of remediation mechanisms, processes and strategies is a vital part of working towards a future in which technologies are better aligned with principles and values that allow all human beings to thrive.

... This paper focuses on the third pillar of the UNGPs: the need for there to be effective remedies for business-related human rights harms. It is designed to provide an introduction to the key concepts and principles that govern access to remedy for the human rights harms that may be associated with technology products and services.

... HEADLINES

  1. The UNGPs offer States, technology companies, investors and advocacy organizations a robust and credible framework for remedying human rights harms resulting from the use of technologies. They are grounded in the right to an effective remedy which is enshrined in international human rights law.
  2. Remedies for the adverse human rights impacts of the business activities of technology companies can potentially take many different forms, and different types of remediation mechanisms have their own distinctive contributions to make.
  3. For remedies to meet international standards they must be effective. There are various tests for “effectiveness”; however the best judges of whether a remedy is actually effective in the circumstances are the affected people and groups themselves.
  4. Beyond setting and enforcing legal standards, State agencies can enhance access to remedy in a range of different ways, for instance through education, awareness-raising, capacity-building and other forms of support for affected people, as part of a “smart mix” of measures to foster business respect for human rights.
  5. A technology company can cause, contribute or be directly linked to human rights harms. This has implications for the action it should take to address those harms, including the extent to which a company is expected to provide for or cooperate in remediation.
  6. Some human rights harms associated with the use of technology products or services may be able to be remedied directly by technology companies, for instance through operational-level grievance mechanisms. In addition to remedying harm that has already occurred, these types of mechanisms also have a key role to play in prevention of future harm.
  7. The eight “effectiveness criteria” set out in Guiding Principle 31 provide a useful framework by which technology companies, legislators, policy makers, regulators and other decision-makers in the technology sector can assess the “effectiveness” of a wide range of remediation processes.

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