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Theme 4: Explainability, transparency and accountability

Wednesday 29 November – Friday 1 December 2023 WP3298

HUman rights and emerging technology image

The public need to better understand the impact of new and emerging technologies to provide informed consent for their deployment and build trust. Better education on the nature of human rights impacts associated with technologies creates a more informed citizenry, able to advocate for their own rights, including access to remedy. There are significant challenges in identifying accountability for adverse human rights impacts in the context of new technologies. Access to remedy is a key challenge, requiring further action.

  1. Effective rights protection begins with individuals knowing how their rights are being impacted. It is therefore essential to improve public understanding of how the design, development and use of technology can impact the enjoyment of their human rights. Improving the explainability of tech underpins meaningful and informed user consent, and addressing power imbalances between users and tech developers and tech companies. Efforts to promote awareness of user rights’ and access to remedy are an essential component of promoting human rights in the context of new technologies. 
  2. Greater transparency by companies on the design, development, intended use and impact of their technologies is needed to allow independent actors such as governments or CSOs to assess company practices, and identify risks to the enjoyment of human rights. Without transparency, advocacy to promote more accountable practices will be hampered. Proper oversight is also needed to ensure the safety systems and mitigation measures implemented by tech companies are effective.
  3. There is a need for more effective accountability mechanisms to prevent and address harms to human rights. Mechanisms may include domestic, regional, or international approaches. It is important that laws, policy frameworks and regulation have teeth and are enforced consistently. Access to remedy is an important aspect of accountability and must be meaningfully accessible by all users. Where remedy mechanisms do exist, for example through existing regulators, they need to be resourced properly to meet the challenge posed by new and emerging technologies. 

“Without transparency, advocacy to promote more accountable practices will be hampered.”

  1. The complexity of the tech landscape means that a range of processes and actors are involved in the design, development and use of technologies. This makes it difficult to assign liability effectively to drive change. There are existing examples that can provide inspiration. For example, regulators could look to liability identification systems used in the context of legal autonomous weapons systems and in relation to the EU Directive, to assess their applicability and potential use in relation to new and emerging technologies more widely. The GDPR process may provide an example of how to promote effective accountability and access to remedy for individuals, in a complex value chain. 


“It is important that laws, policy frameworks and regulation have teeth and are enforced consistently.”

  • Governments and regulators should put in place or implement effective oversight systems and require increased transparency from companies and promote more effective processes to address human rights risks by industry and developers. 
  • Governments should explore implementing and expanding complaints mechanisms and access to redress, improving access to remedy. This could include enabling regulators to act as ombudsmen. 
  • All stakeholders should invest in raising awareness and understanding of how human rights can be adversely impacted in the context of new technologies, to build public awareness and create a culture of informed consent. 
  • Companies should put in place and effectively resource accessible complaints mechanisms, that meet the needs of diverse users in regards to language, cultural context, and respond rapidly to urgent concerns. 
  • Companies should commit to greater transparency measures, including to explore opportunities to promote peer-to-peer learning about what mitigation measures show measurable impact.
  • Civil society organisations should continue to work with grassroots partners to document and highlight cases where harms occur, and share findings with governments, regulators, and industry, to support accountability processes.

Theme 3: A multistakeholder approach


Theme 5: Bridging the gap between human rights and technologists to inject human rights throughout the technology lifecycle

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