Round Table - U-shape - 60 Min
Ensuring human rights protections in the digital age requires looking beyond the digital interface and into where standards that govern our digital ecosystem are developed. Technical standards cover a wide range of digital technologies and related infrastructures, services, protocols, applications, and devices that have enormous impacts on human rights. Yet technical standard-setting processes within standards development organizations often do not fully take into consideration human rights concerns in part because the processes are often opaque, complex, and resource-heavy for civil society and other stakeholders to access and regularly follow. According to the former Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression, David Kaye, the “failure to mandate Transport Layer Security (TLS) as a feature of the Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) left web traffic vulnerable to censorship and surveillance,” illustrating one example of how standards development without adequate human rights considerations may adversely impact human rights, notably the freedom of expression.
Pursuant to Human Rights Council resolution A/HRC/RES/47/23, UN Human Rights is mandated to convene an expert consultation and draft a report on the relationship between technical standard-setting and human rights. As part of an open consultation process, this Open Forum will provide an opportunity to convene various stakeholders, particularly from academia, technical community, private sector and civil society, and discuss the following questions. The outcome of this discussion will help us prepare the expert consultation in early 2023.
What are the potential ways through which concerns related to human rights in standard-setting processes can be considered? What are some of the case studies or examples we can look to?
- What can standard-development organizations (SDOs) do to facilitate consideration of human rights in their processes?
- What are the current gaps and challenges for effective civil society participation in various standard-setting fora? What are some of the possible solutions to the challenges identified?
- How can standard-setting processes be made more transparent and accessible to organizations working at the intersection of human rights and digital technology, and to civil society organizations more broadly?
UN Human Rights (OHCHR)
Center for Democracy and Technology
Office of the UN Secretary-General's Envoy on Technology
Bilel Jamoussi, Chief of Study Groups Department, ITU Standardization Bureau
Lars Eggert, Distinguished Engineer for Internet Standards, NetApp, and Chair of Internet Engineering Task Force
Mehwish Ansari, Head of Digital, Article 19
Dessalegn Yehuala, Researcher and Lecturer, Addis Ababa University
Peggy Hicks, Director of Thematic Engagement, Special Procedures and Right to Development Division of UN Human Rights (OHCHR)
Yoojin Kim, UN Human Rights Office (OHCHR)
Yoojin Kim, UN Human Rights (OHCHR)
Targets: 9. Sustainable industrialization (build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation) 16. Inclusive societies (promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable, and inclusive institutions at all levels) 17. Strengthen global partnerships (strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development)
Effective and inclusive multistakeholder participation in technical standard-setting process is critical to ensure adequate human rights considerations are taken into account before, during, and after the development of technical standards, including during the implementation stage.
In order to ensure inclusive and sustainable participation of stakeholders, including civil society, various barriers (financial, cultural, knowledge) to access and meaningfully participate in technical standard-setting processes could be considered and addressed at various standard setting organizations while ensuring this does not slow down the process or pose additional hurdles.
Standard-setting organizerions should consider methods to ensure inclusive, meaningful, and sustainable participation of and access to technical standard-setting processes for stakeholders, particularly civil society organizations and human rights experts that can provide expertise so that adverse human rights risks are mitigated and addressed in standard-setting processes, including through dialogue and collaboration with civil society.