UN Human Rights Council Advisory Committee: Interview with Dr. Catherine Van De Heyning

UN Human Rights Council Advisory Committee Discussed Report on Impact of Emerging Technologies, and Gender Inequality on UN Human Rights Bodies

Dr. Catherine Van de Heyning is a professor of European Fundamental Rights Law at the University of Antwerp, and a member of the UN Human Rights Council Advisory Committee.

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Her research focuses on the protection of procedural rights in the interaction between the domestic and European courts.

The Advisory Committee recently presented four reports to the UN Human Rights Council, to address the impact of emerging technologies on the promotion and protection of human rights, another on gender inequalities, a third on the pervasiveness of racism, and the fourth on terrorism.

Read the full report on emerging tech here.

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The UN Brief interviewed Dr. Van de Heyning on the main points of the report, how Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems, LAWS, should be regulated, as well as social media platforms, and the positive aspects of using digital communications to advance a cause, like the environment campaign started by a Great Thunberg.

Links to Dr. Van de Heyning research

Advisory Committee report on emerging tech and its impact of the promotion of Human Rights

What has been identified as a risk to democracy?

What are the recommendations of the Advisory Committee?

What are the positive aspects of new technologies in promoting human rights?

Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems, LAWS, what are the challenges there?

What is the role of the Human Rights Council in parsing through this vast field and looking at each technology and addressing its impact on civic life? We spoke about these and more.

Watch. Or listen in our podcast version.

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Human Rights Council Advisory Committee Review Reports on Emerging Tech, Racism, Terrorism, and Gender Inequality

The UN Human Rights Council met from the 16 to the 20 August, in Geneva. Its Advisory Committee presented and assessed the findings of their reports on emerging tech’s impact on the protection and promotion of human rights, current levels of representation of women in human rights organs and mechanisms, persistent racial inequalities around the globe, and the impact of terrorism on human rights.

The Advisory Committee is a rotating 18-member body composed of independent experts, from a wide geographic distribution. They are legal scholars, academics, or held office in the areas of human rights promotion in their respective countries.

That emerging technologies are tearing apart democracies around the globe is no secret, in spite of the initial misguided and well-funded attempts to muddy the waters and pretend the dog ate the internal report by policy and external affairs staff at some technology companies and authoritarian governments alike.

If tech created the problem can it solve it?

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The call for the report and panel is the result of a resolution adopted by the UN Human Rights Council, on 11 July of 2019, as well is in line with:

“resolutions of the General Assembly and the Human Rights Council, the most recent of which are Assembly resolution 73/17 of 26 November 2018 on the impact of rapid technological change on the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals and targets, Assembly resolution 73/179 of 17 December 2018 and Council resolution 37/2 of 22 March 2018 on the right to privacy in the digital age, Assembly resolution 73/218 of 20 December 2018 on the information and communications technologies for sustainable development, and Council resolution 38/7 of 5 July 2018 on the promotion, protection and enjoyment of human rights on the Internet.

It also responds to the UN Secretary-General’s strategy on new technologies, including the work of the High-level Panel on Digital Cooperation and the report submitted by the Panel to the Secretary-General on 10 June 2019 as well as the UN Global Compact Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, as endorsed by the Human Rights Council in its resolution 17/4 of 16 June 2011.

An Advisory Committee was created to research and review on the issues of digital transformation, new technologies and human rights.

It is well established that digital technologies:

“have the potential to facilitate efforts to accelerate human progress, to promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms, to bridge digital divides, to support, inter alia, the enjoyment of the rights of persons with disabilities, the advancement of gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls, and to ensure that no one is left behind in the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.”

The UN Human Rights Council, in an official document, continues:

“Mindful that the possible impacts, opportunities and challenges of rapid technological change with regard to the promotion, protection and enjoyment of human rights, including in cases where changes may occur at an exponential pace, are not fully understood, and of the need to further analyse them in a holistic, inclusive and comprehensive manner.

…the need for Governments, the private sector, international organizations, civil society, the technical and academic communities and all relevant stakeholders to be cognizant of the impacts, opportunities and challenges of rapid technological change on the promotion and protection of human rights.

Recognizing also that rapid technological change affects States in different ways, and that addressing these impacts, which depend on States’ national realities, capacities and levels of development, requires international and multi-stakeholder cooperation in order to benefit from opportunities and to address the challenges arising from this change, as well as to bridge digital divides

Requests the Advisory Committee to prepare a report, from within existing resources, on the possible impacts, opportunities and challenges of new and emerging digital technologies with regard to the promotion and protection of human rights, including mapping of relevant existing initiatives by the United Nations and recommendations on how human rights opportunities, challenges and gaps arising from new and emerging digital technologies could be addressed by the Human Rights Council and its special procedures and subsidiary bodies in a holistic, inclusive and pragmatic manner, and to present the report to the Council at its forty-seventh session;

Also requests the Advisory Committee, when preparing the above-mentioned report, to seek input from and to take into account the relevant work already done by stakeholders, including Member States, international and regional organizations, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, the special procedures of the Human Rights Council, the treaty bodies, other relevant United Nations agencies, funds and programmes within their respective mandates, the Secretary-General’s High-level Panel on Digital Cooperation, national human rights institutions, civil society, the private sector, the technical community and academic institutions.

Decides to convene a panel discussion at its forty-fourth session on the impacts, opportunities and challenges of new and emerging digital technologies with regard to the promotion and protection of human rights, also decides that the discussions will be fully accessible to persons with disabilities, and requests the Advisory Committee to present an oral update on its preparation of the above-mentioned report during the panel discussion

Requests the Office of the High Commissioner to organize the above- mentioned panel discussion and to liaise with relevant stakeholders, including Member States, international and regional organizations, the Advisory Committee, the special procedures of the Human Rights Council, the human rights treaty bodies, other relevant United Nations agencies, funds and programmes within their respective mandates, national human rights institutions, civil society, the private sector, the technical community and academic institutions, with a view to ensuring multi-stakeholder participation in the panel discussion.”

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