On October 29 and 30 at Diamond Hall, FKI Conference Center in Yeouido, Human Asia co-hosted the 12th Asia Human Rights Forum under the theme ‘Human Rights, Business and Technology: An Evolving Agenda’. The conference was hosted together with Korea University Human Rights Center, SSK Human Rights Forum, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the ESRC Human Rights, Big Data and Technology Project at the University of Essex, and the Korea Association of Human Rights Studies.
Human Asia has hosted the Asia Human Rights forum series annually since 2006, with the aim of creating a strong regional network that will contribute to the establishment of a human rights protection mechanism in Asia. More than 130 representatives from international and regional organisations, the National Human Rights Commission of Korea, civil society groups, local and international businesses, academics from human rights and business related backgrounds, and students participated in the 12th Asia Human Rights Forum.
This year’s forum followed on from the resolution ‘New and Emerging Digital Technologies and Human Rights’ recently adopted by the UN Human Rights Council after a June 2019 panel discussion led by the Korean government. The forum examined the various influences, potential opportunities and tasks for human rights vis-a-vis new technologies, including artificial intelligence and big data. The forum further presented exemplary practices and policy experiences of domestic and international public enterprises alongside multinational corporations, and explored practical human rights-centric policies for businesses.
The first day of the forum (29 October) began with Opening Remarks from Human Asia’s President, Changrok Soh. Lene Wendland (Chief of the Business and Human Rights Section at OHCHR), Lorna McGregor (Professor of International Human Rights Law, Director of the Human Rights Center and PI and Director of the ESRC Human Rights, Big Data and Technology Project at the University of Essex), and Seunghoon Lee (Vice-President of the Korea Association of Human Rights Studies) then presented their own respective Welcoming Remarks. Following Congratulatory Remarks from Sangchul Lee (Standing Commissioner at the National Human Rights Commission of Korea) and Heeseok Hwang (Director-General of Human Rights Bureau at the Ministry of Justice), the first session of the event began. The luncheon session further was opened with a speech by Kihwan Kwon, Director-General for International Organizations at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Lene Wendland’s Welcoming Remarks emphasised that respect for human rights needs to remain at the core of the development, utilisation and governance of new technologies, and that this task will require far more than quick training programs or episodic impact assessments. The presentations, panel discussions and open discussions of this years event were further held under Chatham House Rules. By ensuring that the statements made by speakers and presenters would not be replicated elsewhere, the forum sought to guarantee that all of the involved participants and various stakeholders could freely express their own opinions and thoughts.
The second day of the event (30 October) was directed by OHCHR and involved panel and open discussions across three sessions: ‘The Role of States and Businesses in Human Rights Accountability and Remedy’; ‘Enhancing the Effectiveness of Non-State-Based Grievance Mechanisms for Business-Related Human Rights Abuses’; and ‘Access to Remedy Through Non-State-Based Grievance Mechanisms in the Technology Sector’.
Following the event President Soh stated: ‘This forum is highly significant in that it provides an open space for professional and in-depth discussions on human rights and businesses in the Fourth Industrial Revolution, and that it is held here in Korea, which is taking a leading role in exploring new technologies and human rights. I hope that this forum becomes the cornerstone in this period of technological development for technologies and people, and human rights and businesses, to peaceful collaborate and work together in forwarding human dignity’.
Human Asia would like to express our deepest gratitude to those who made time to participate in the 12th Asia Human Rights Forum. Human Asia will continue to strive to create holistic, inclusive and open spaces enabling dialogue between different actors and stakeholders, and work towards our goal of the establishment of an Asian human rights protection system. Thank you.