by Rowen Siemens
Published: 08 Dec 2022
Monitoring human rights in a digital world: sharing our work internationally
We were excited and honoured to present at the Geneva Human Rights Platform’s 2022 Annual Conference in October, where the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) was invited to showcase our flagship Human Rights Tracker.
The Geneva Human Rights Platform, hosted by the Geneva Academy, provides a forum for organisations around the world working in human rights to debate issues about the international human rights system.
The theme of this year’s conference was On/Off: Implications of Digital Connectivity on Human Rights. The EHRC was invited to take part in a round table discussion on digital human rights tracking tools based on the Tracker’s reputation as good practice. We were pleased to speak alongside digital human rights experts from around the world, particularly as addressing the equality and human rights impact of digital services and artificial intelligence is a priority in our current strategic plan.
Why is accessible, digital human rights monitoring so important?
We have inherited a system of international human rights frameworks that are largely of another time.
While the work of treaty bodies and other mechanisms remains as crucial as ever, the outcomes of this work must be easily accessible and applicable to have impact.
People and organisations should be able to understand and implement or influence recommendations with ease. This doesn’t only apply to governments, but to citizens and civil society also looking to become more engaged in human rights education, opinion shaping and debate.
Sharing our expertise in Geneva
With this mission in mind, off I went to Geneva with my colleague Becca Tombury! The conference was at Geneva’s historic Villa Moynier, the headquarters of the Geneva Academy situated within idyllic grounds on Lake Geneva. We met new friends and old, including representatives from country National Mechanisms for Implementation, Reporting, and Follow Up. These are national public organisations which coordinate and engage with international and regional human rights mechanisms. There were also non-governmental organisations (NGOs); the UN’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights; and National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) – like ourselves. Each participant had their own innovative tool to showcase.
Presentations began with a demonstration of OHCHR’s National Recommendations Tracking Database. We then learned about other tools, each with their own objectives, approaches, and target users.
Our Human Rights Tracker
Soon it was our turn. We presented our Human Rights Tracker’s three functions during our demo:
- our guide to international human rights treaty monitoring and reporting;
- our searchable, filterable database of UN recommendations;
- and our assessment tool of UK and Welsh Government progress on human rights.
Our role as an NHRI uniquely shapes the design of our tool, as the Paris Principles guide its goals of transparency for the public, its facilitation of engagement by civil society in human rights, and its support to the UK and Welsh Governments’ work to fulfil their human rights obligations.
After the demos were complete (15 tools in all!), the group discussed the challenges and successes we encountered throughout their design and use.
International collaboration – face-to-face finally!
The rest of the conference involved interesting panels on digital human rights topics ranging from surveillance and the digital divide to the importance of accurate data collection. During the day, Becca and I presented on issues we are passionate about and learnt much from our peers. It was wonderful to engage in person after many years of working virtually.
All in all, we left feeling our contribution to the expert dialogue on human rights tracking tools was significant. We are proud to have a built a tool that stands out as multi-functional and accessible to a wide group of users with various levels of familiarity with the international human right system and frameworks. This event left no doubt in our minds that the EHRC is a trailblazer in this area, and one of few organisations paving the way to accessible and useful promotion of human rights through a digital tracking medium.