Human rights in the digital age: Making digital technology work for human rights
The seventh Glion Human Rights Dialogue (Glion VII), organised by the Governments of Switzerland and Liechtenstein, and the Universal Rights Group (URG), in partnership with the Permanent Missions of Fiji, Iceland, Mexico, the Seychelles and Thailand, was held on 3-4 December 2020 and considered the topic: ‘Human rights in the digital age: Making digital technology work for human rights.’ In particular the Glion VII digital retreat and its four preparatory policy dialogues held in Geneva and New York looked at making digital technology work for freedom of expression and access to information; making digital technology work for equality and non-discrimination, including in the area of economic, social and cultural rights; and making digital technology work for civil and political rights, democracy and elections.
The rapid evolution and spread of new technologies have major implications for the enjoyment of human rights. As such, it is perhaps no surprise that the Human Rights Council (Council), and the wider UN human rights system, have regularly considered the human rights implications of emergent technologies. For example, in 2019 it adopted a broad text on ‘New and emerging digital technologies and human rights,’ a new iteration of which will be presented during HRC 47.
Discussions at Glion VII demonstrated a growing awareness, among States, technology companies, UN experts and civil society, of both the scope and the scale of the challenges that digital technology pose to human rights in the 21st century. There is also a growing recognition this is the time for the Human Rights Council, its mechanisms, and the wider UN system to act. There was a clear belief that the global and complex nature of those challenges mean that all stakeholders must work together, through dialogue, cooperation, and collaboration, to address them effectively. At the same time, there was a strong determination, among participants at Glion VII, that the role of the international community should not only be to mitigate the human rights risks associated with new technologies, but rather to ‘put digital technology at the service of human rights’ – civil, political, economic, social and cultural.
Glion VII provided a platform for UN member States, the President of the Human Rights Council, senior UN officials (including the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Technology), Special Procedures mandate holders, NGOs, human rights defenders, academics, technology and social media companies, and others, to consider these questions, challenges, and opportunities. Some of the key messages, ideas and recommendations, expressed by participants at Glion VII have been captured in this report, while respecting the Chatham House rule under which the meeting was held. The organisers hope that this report will encourage and contribute to wider consideration of the issues.
Other relevant documents to the Glion process can be found below:
- Concept note
- Background papers:
- Draft programme
- Compilation report of the pre-Glion Policy Dialogues
- List of participants per break-out group
A recording of the public element of the event is available here.
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