Building blocks for tech regulation – limitations and advantages of a Business & Human Rights approach

Event date
21 October 2022
Event time
10:00 - 16:00
Oxford week
MT 2
Bonavero Institute of Human Rights
Various speakers, details in the Agenda below

Notes & Changes

This is an invitation only event. If you are interested in joining, please email

An expert consultation organized by the UN Human Rights B-Tech Project and the University of Oxford’s Bonavero Institute for Human Rights.

Over the past years there has been an increasing focus on the interrelationship between human rights and technology. The Human Rights Council, OHCHR and UN human rights mechanisms have highlighted that the promise of digital technologies for transformational change to the benefit of humanity can only be realised when effectively guarding against the risk of harm to people. Government responses to the challenges have been – or risk being – reactive and ad hoc, overlooking at times the existing frameworks and standards that provide principled and rights-based responses. For their part, technology companies have called for more clarity and guidance on how to meet expectations for responsible business conduct.


The authoritative global standard for preventing and addressing human rights harms connected to business activity, including in the tech sector, is the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs), endorsed by the Human Rights Council in its resolution 17/4 of 16 June 2011.


An increasing number of States are elaborating policy frameworks at the national and multilateral level regarding the development and use of digital technologies such as those based on Big Data, Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence. Other regulatory developments, such as those related to Mandatory Human Rights Due Diligence requirements for companies, may also have implications for how technology companies design, develop, and sell products and services, for example by mandating greater transparency over the decisions they make, and putting in place safeguards and oversight.


In order to provide enhanced clarity for policymakers and other key stakeholders working on regulatory proposals regarding business conduct in the technology sector, the B-Tech Project will develop a guidance tool. B-Tech is conceptualizing a “UNGPs check” (working title) tool that would allow policy makers and other stakeholders to assess whether regulatory or incentive-based initiatives directed at tech align with the UNGPs.


The purpose of the “UNGPs check” (working title) will be to inform the choice of design and policy options/instruments for draft legislation and incentive-based initiatives aiming at rights-respecting conduct of tech companies. The aim will be to offer a set of core elements that can serve as the analytical grid for rights-respecting tech regulation and political incentives. The “UNGPs check” will provide States with a roadmap to check that their efforts across different policy domains relevant to tech/tech companies’ operations, products and services are aligned with the UNGPs. The key messages and features of the “UNGPs check” will aim to foster a Business & Human Rights angle in tech and advocate for it.

The consultation builds on


The purpose of the consultation is two-fold: 

  • First, to discuss implications from existing tech as well as business & human rights regulation and identify lessons learnt
  • Second, to present and discuss the proposed building blocks of a “UNGPs check” guidance tool for policy makers








Lene Wendland, UN Human Rights & Prof Kate O’Regan, Director Bonavero Institute of Human Rights


Opening remarks

Dr Lisa Hsin, University of Oxford


Setting the scene

Dr Isabel Ebert, UN Human Rights B-Tech



Session 1: Identifying barriers & opportunities in Human Rights Due Diligence


Moderated by Dr Lisa Hsin


  • Ashley Nancy Reynolds, International Committee of the Red Cross (virtual)
  • Prof Steve New, University of Oxford
  • Prof Roger Brownsword, King’s College London
  • Dr. Irene Pietropaoli, British Intitute of International Comparative Law






Session 2: What are the lessons learnt from existing tech and BHR regulation?

Moderated by Dr Isabel Ebert

  • Diana Vlad Calcic, European Commission (virtual)
  • Dr Halefom Abraha, University of Oxford
  • Kathryn Doyle, Global Partners Digital
  • Elonnai Hickok, Global Network Initiative


Coffee break



Session 3: Building blocks for a technology regulation guidance tool centering on the UNGPs


Moderated by Lene Wendland, UN Human Rights

  • Prof Joris van Hoboken, University of Amsterdam (virtual)
  • Isedua Obharibor, AccessNow
  • Dr Sebastian Smart, Universidad Austral de Chile (virtual)
  • Asha Allen, Centre for Democracy & Technology Europe


Reflection & discussion

Moderated by Phil Bloomer, Business & Human Rights Resource Centre


Closing remarks, followed by drinks reception

Lene Wendland, UN Human Rights


Found within

Human Rights Law