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Building human rights into new technologies

Graphic: Close up of hands of older man

Human rights considerations must be taken into full account if care giving responsibilities for older people are to be transferred to robots.

Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions LogoGlobal Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions

Human rights considerations must be taken into full account if caregiving responsibilities for older people are to be assigned to robots and assistive technology, the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions (GANHRI) has told the Human Rights Council.

The development and use of these new technologies was the subject of the annual report of the Independent Expert on the enjoyment of all human rights by older persons, Ms Rosa Korfeld-Matte, and discussed at the 36th Session of the Human Rights Council.

In her report, Ms Korfeld-Matte said that as robots are given more care giving functions, the benefit to older persons will depend on their responsible design and use and "may require a review of the existing normative and policy frameworks to ensure that a human rights-based approach is being adopted to assistive technology".

Older persons must be able to weigh the risks and the benefits of the technology, she said. In addition, the technology must be affordable and accessible to everyone and should not stigmatize older persons.

According to Ms Korfeld-Matte, robotics research and development should be conducted in accordance with the "precautionary principle" to anticipate potential impacts.

There should also be discussions about the establishment of a dedicated watchdog on artificial intelligence and to ensure that such mechanisms adequately address the situation of older persons, drawing on human rights standards.

Speaking via video statement, Sung-Ho Lee, Chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission of Korea, in his capacity as Chair of the GANHRI Working Group on Ageing, thanked the Independent Expert for drawing attention to this "emerging and complex issue".

Chairperson Lee stressed that while "the use of assistive technology and robots has great potential to increase the ability of older persons to live independently and autonomously", it is important to "ensure that the introduction of advanced assisted devices and robotics in older persons' care does not deepen inequalities between developed and developing countries".

He also stressed that older persons must be able to make informed decisions as to whether they want to make use of assistive technology or be cared for by another person.

In line with the Independent Expert's recommendations, GANHRI urged that a human rights-based approach being adopted across the development, access and use of such technologies.

GANHRI also supported the Independent Expert's call to implement Goal 17 of the Sustainable Development Goals to enhance cross regional cooperation and access to science, technology, innovation and knowledge-sharing.

Read the statement or watch the statement presented by Sung-Ho Lee, Chair of the GANHRI Working Group on Ageing, to the 36thSession of the Human Rights Council

Date: 12 September 2017

Source: GANHRI


Image credits

  1. Close up of hands of older man - Robert Douglass, Flickr; http://bit.ly/2xgXOwD