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Theme 3: A multistakeholder approach

Wednesday 29 November – Friday 1 December 2023 WP3298

HUman rights and emerging technology image

Preserving and strengthening a multi-stakeholder approach to international tech governance, including in relation to human rights bodies, is essential.   

  1. Tech governance issues, including in relation to human rights, are of growing interest globally, and are under active discussion in a number of multilateral and multistakeholder bodies. This includes initiatives in the UN Human Rights Council, the UN General Assembly, UNESCO and the UN Internet Governance Forum.  The Council of Europe is considering the first international convention on AI, and the OECD is driving numerous emerging tech workstreams including through its Global Forum on Technology. The UK hosted AI Safety Summit raised awareness of the urgent need to steer AI development to in a direction that best promotes human rights, democracy and the rule of law.  
  2. Multistakeholder approaches are fundamental to effective technology governance discussions and policy-making and should be protected and promoted. Whilst some international processes operate on the basis of intergovernmental negotiation, creative models to enable multistakeholder engagement are vital to inform a more inclusive debate, reflecting the expertise of civil society, academia, and other stakeholders. It is a priority to improve engagement of stakeholders from under-represented regions in the global south, smaller civil society organisations, human rights defenders, and marginalised groups most impacted by technological change. This will ensure a deeper understanding of how technologies can impact human rights, and how these are experienced by different groups. 
  3. Models of effective multistakeholder should be followed consistently. The multistakeholder approach taken by following initiatives provide a good example: the Global Network Initiative, the Global Partnership for Action on TFGBV, OHCHR”s B-Tech project, the Freedom Online Coalition, work at the African Union to establish a high-level expert panel to advise member states on harnessing innovation for socio-economic development, the Internet Governance Forum and industry associations. Truly effective multistakeholder engagement requires organisers to embed good practices, for example in organising events in diverse locations, raising awareness to expand participation. Engagement can be expensive for less well-resourced actors – targeting funding to enable participation from less-represented groups can be important to mitigate risks of exclusion, as well as clear communication on the different ways in which stakeholders can participate. Larger civil society organisations with presence or regular engagement in multilateral organisations can play a role in facilitating engagement by local groups. 

“Truly effective multi-stakeholder engagement requires organisers to embed good practices.”

  1. Non-government stakeholders need more clarity on how to engage in the development of the Global Digital Compact (GDC). Governments should call for an inclusive and transparent process engaging all stakeholders to maximise effectiveness of the outcome. There are risks that the GDC duplicates or undermine existing initiatives and organisations, which need to be pushed back on. 
  2. To enable more effective coordination, more transparency from governments on their priorities would be beneficial. For example, the technologies they are prioritising engaging on from a human rights perspective, and relevant short- and long-term objectives. Given the pace of change and breadth of technologies, resources and capacity will need to be prioritised, and burden-sharing between governments and stakeholders could be explored. 


“The public need to better understand the impact of new and emerging technologies to provide informed consent for their deployment and build trust.”

  • Governments should advocate for open, transparent, inclusive processes and the engagement of the multistakeholder community wherever possible. They should actively engage their own stakeholder communities, particularly where the modalities of engagement exclude non-governmental stakeholders. 
  • Governments should explore creative means to enable more diverse participation in intergovernmental and multilateral processes – for example by forming multistakeholder country delegations, supporting targeted travel assistance, among others.  
  • Multilateral organisations should adopt consistent, clear, inclusive processes to enable multistakeholder engagement, to promote the inclusion of diverse stakeholders, including CSOs (local and international), marginalised groups most affected by technological change, and diverse actors from the global south. 
  • Civil society organisations should expand their networks, building coalitions between organisations to pool resources and use one voice for a clearer message and single point of contact.  

Theme 2: Strengthen implementation of existing human rights, rather than redefine the frameworks


Theme 4: Explainability, transparency and accountability

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