The 12th Asia Human Rights Forum in 2019 under the theme of
“Human Rights, Business and Technology: An Evolving Agenda.”
It was held on the basis of the resolution “new and emerging digital technologies and human rights” spearheaded by the Korean government and adopted at United Nations Human Rights Council.
International and regional organizations, the National Human Rights Commission of Korea, civil society organizations, businesses and academia participated.
▲ Chang-rok Soh, Vice President for Korea University Human Rights Center (4th from left in the back row)
in a commemorative photo with major participants at the 12th Asia Human Rights Forum in 2019.
The Korea University Human Rights Center co-hosted the 12th Asia Human Rights Forum titled “Human Rights, Business and Technology: An Evolving Agenda” on October 29 and 30, 2019, at Diamond Hall, FKI Conference Center in Yeouido with Human Asia, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), Big Data and Technology Project of Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) at the University of Essex, and Korea Association of Human Rights Studies.
The Korea University Human Rights Center has been hosting the Asia Human Rights Forum every year since 2006 to promote human rights in Asia and to establish a network for the region’s human rights protection system. In its 12th year, the forum was attended by more than 130 participants from international and regional organizations, national human rights commissions, civil society organizations, domestic and international businesses, scholars and experts in human rights and business management, and students.
The forum was held with the aim of examining the impact of artificial intelligence and big data on human rights, based on the resolution “new and emerging digital technologies and human rights” spearheaded by the Korean government and adopted at the United Nations Human Rights Council in June 2019 and of analyzing the opportunities and tasks these new technologies present. Additionally, the forum was a place for domestic and foreign public corporations to share best practices and policy experiences in human rights and to seek practical policies on the business and human rights for corporate management.
On the first day, October 29, the forum was opened by a speech from Chang-rok Soh, vice president of the Korea University Human Rights Center, welcoming remarks from Lene Wendland, advisor on business and human rights in the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), Lorna McGregor, professor of international human rights law at Essex University, and Sung-hoon Lee, vice president of the Korea Association of Human Rights Studies, and congratulatory messages from Sang-chul Lee, permanent commissioner of National Human Rights Commission of Korea, and Hee-seok Hwang, director general of the Human Rights Bureau, Ministry of Justice. A luncheon supported by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs began with a speech from Ki-hwan Kwon, director general of the International Organizations Bureau, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Wendland emphasized that we should ensure that respect for human rights is the backbone of developing, using, and managing new technologies and that this is not achieved by simply minimizing risks, providing education programs or temporarily evaluating the impact of such technologies.
The event consisted of presentation sessions, panel discussions and free discussion. The Chatham house rule, by which participants agree not to reveal who made a comment and what remarks were made in advance, was applied so that various stakeholders could share their opinions and thoughts without reservation during discussions.
On the second day, October 30, a designated panel discussion and open discussion, led by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), were held in three sessions: the role of governments and businesses in accountability and remedies, ways to increase the effectiveness of non-state-based and independent grievance mechanisms for business-related human rights abuses, and access to remedies through non-government and independent grievance systems in technology.
Chang-rok Soh, vice president of the Korea University Human Rights Center (professor at Korea University Graduate School of International Studies, a member of the Advisory Committee of UN Human Rights Council and the president of Human Asia) explained the event’s importance, “I think it is very meaningful to hold a forum with professional and in-depth discussions on human rights, business and technology in Korea, which is taking a leading role in new technologies and human rights. I hope this will be a place to realize human dignity in the age of new technology and lay the foundation for the peaceful coexistence of technologies, human beings and businesses.”