National Human Rights Institutions as Digital Rights Watchdogs


Line Gamrath Rasmussen, The Danish Institute for Human Rights (IMR)

About the Action Coalition

Digitalisation has strong human rights implications – both positive and negative as digital technologies are finding its way into many of the areas that “traditional” duty-bearers were implementing and overseeing, such as facial recognition in policing; AI based profiling models in individual case handling and recruitment in the public sector; information distribution through social media by authorities; internet banking; digital identity systems etc. These trends pose several human rights challenges, which human rights organisations, including National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs), need to address. However, their capacity to respond is rather limited. Reasons for lack of such human rights response are various, including lack of capacity, expertise or awareness. An operational Digital Rights Coalition will support NHRIs in getting empowered to raise to this challenge.

Targeted outcome

Consolidating the role of NHRIs in the digital age to better protect and promote digital rights and freedoms. The AC furthermore aims to capacity-build, raise awareness and convene stakeholders in the field.

Output during Year of Action

  • Reflection tool on NHRI mandate areas in the context of digitalisation (lead by DIHR, with input from NHRIs interested).
  • Session at RightsCon on tech and NHRI mandate areas of legal review and complaints-handling (together with the UN B-tech project).
  • Ad-hoc activities identified by members throughout 2022.


Activities undertaken include regular virtual meetings, development of a reflection tool that will help its members to define their role in protecting and promoting human rights digitally to be launched in the beginning of 2023, mailing list with regular sharing of information.

Next steps

  • Consolidation of AC in terms of memberships and regular activities.
  • Launch of reflection tool in primo 2023, including online trainings, workshops.
  • Peer-learning events (RightsCon, regional groups, peer-to-peer​).
  • Fundraising for activities at national level with individual NRHIs.
  • The Danish Institute for Human Rights (IMR)
  • Australia
  • Belgium
  • Chile
  • Colombia
  • Denmark
  • Ethiopia
  • Finland
  • France
  • Georgia
  • Ireland
  • Kenya
  • Mongolia
  • New Zealand
  • Northern Ireland
  • Norway
  • Palestine
  • Peru
  • Portugal
  • Samoa
  • Slovakia
  • South Africa
  • Uganda
  • Zambia
Past events
09 Jun11:45 am - 12:45 pm

Developing a tool to support national human rights institutions (NHRIs) become digital rights watchdogs

The session will seek to answer the key questions:

What do NHRIs need to be aware of to make their legal review practices more adequate to include digital rights?

How can NHRIs collaborate with external partners to improve legal review regarding digital rights and/or assist implementation of laws targeting company conduct within the technology sector?

How can the NHRI complaints-handling mandate supplement redress mechanisms already established and how can mechanisms be developed to bridge the gaps?

We seek the input from:

Civil society: How can NHRIs become more attentive to digital rights when executing these two mandate areas?

NHRIs: what are your experiences and needs in fulfilling your mandate concerning digital rights?

Private sector: How can NHRIs supplement the access to remedy pillar of the UNGPs?

Host institution: Danish Institute for Human Rights (DIHR) | United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), B-Tech Project

NB. The event is part of RightsCon. RightsCon is the world’s leading summit on human rights in the digital age. To attend the conference you need to register. Go to to check out the different options.