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Under Secretary Zeya’s Intervention at UDHR 75 Roundtable on The Future of Human Rights and Digital Technology
December 12, 2023

Under Secretary Zeya’s Intervention at the UDHR 75 Roundtable on

The Future of Human Rights and Digital Technologies


On behalf of the United States, I want to thank the United Nations for organizing today’s discussion at a critical inflection point on this 75th anniversary.

Technological innovation has been re-shaping our lives for years, but the accelerating pace of advancements is transforming every country in the world, no matter its geography, size, or political system. As Secretary Blinken has said, the test we now face is how we can shape this transformation in a way that maximizes its promise, minimizes its dangers, and reinforces the promotion and protection of universal human rights.

Allow me to highlight three ways the United States and diverse, valued partners, including 38 governments in the U.S.-chaired Freedom Online Coalition, are advancing rights respecting technologies. First, we are working to advance the safe, secure, and trustworthy development, deployment, and use of artificial intelligence (AI).

For our part, President Biden issued a groundbreaking Executive Order that establishes new standards for AI safety and security and advances civil and human rights. Just last month, Vice President Harris participated in UK’s AI Safety Summit where she announced that 10 philanthropies will join us as we work to protect workers’ rights and prevent discrimination, building international rules and norms for the responsible use of AI.

Second, we are promoting the protection of human rights by the technology sector and other business enterprises. Companies can and should do their part to uphold human rights and to reduce the risks of their products and services being misused to facilitate repression. Earlier this year, the White House secured a second round of eight voluntary commitments from leading tech companies that will help drive safe, secure, and trustworthy development of AI technology. Additionally, as part of our pledges at this UDHR anniversary gathering, we will soon release guidance to help tech companies prevent their platforms from being used as a staging ground for attacks against human rights defenders.

This brings us to the third element – the United States’ deep commitment to protecting human rights defenders who face threats and attacks, including arbitrary or unlawful online surveillance, censorship, harassment, and disinformation. Through our multistakeholder Lifeline

Program, we committed more than $48 million to support emergency and advocacy grants to over 3,700 civil society organizations operating in 120 countries and territories since 2011. Our defense of civil society online intensifies as well, where the United States, along with 13 other governments, international organizations, and civil society, is driving the Global Partnership for Action on Gender-Based Online Harassment and Abuse. This initiative shares common principles, expands access to data, and scales up programming related to online threats and abuse intended to drive women and girls out of public policy and information spaces.

I’ll close with a question to our panelists. How can the UN build upon these initiatives to promote and protect the rights of human rights defenders online?