In a changing world, equality law is being challenged by new developments which call into question established norms and approaches. At the same time, the potential of equality laws as a tool to address these challenges is not being exploited. We have identified three major global equality challenges – artificial intelligence; climate change; and poverty – which demand critical reflection and new legal responses. We believe that the law has the capacity to adapt and evolve in response to new developments, and that it must do so if it is to remain relevant and effective. There is a knowledge deficit both about how equality laws need to adapt in response to these challenges and about the potential of the law to contribute to tackling these problems.
In 2022, we launched a new initiative focusing on the challenges posed by artificial intelligence for the enjoyment of the rights to equality and non-discrimination. Working with others, we have mapped patterns of algorithmic discrimination and developed the Principles on Equality by Design in Algorithmic Decision-Making Systems – a set of legal principles which explain why and how States must adopt a proactive, precautionary and pre-emptive approach to identifying and addressing potential equality impacts in order to meet their international human rights law obligations. This work has underlined the need for, and potential of, collaborative research, legal analysis and standard development to ensure that equality laws are effectively applied in the face of new challenges.
How will we achieve our objective?
We will develop and implement programmes focused on the role of equality law in responding to three global inequality challenges.
- Algorithmic discrimination initiative: We will promote the adoption and use of the Principles on Equality by Design in Algorithmic Decision-Making Systems. We will advocate for the integration of the Principles into the UN Global Digital Compact and support UN human rights bodies to recommend their use by States; support civil society organisations to advocate for this approach in national regulatory regimes; and work with businesses to create accessible guidance on integrating equality by design into the development and use of these systems.
- Equality law and climate justice initiative: We will undertake collaborative research into the links between discrimination and climate change. With a global expert group, we will both explore the potential of equality law to form part of the response to climate change and examine how the law needs to develop to respond to challenges such as interstate and intergenerational climate inequalities. Together with partner organisations, we will develop guiding principles on equality law and climate justice, in order to support civil society and lawyers to use equality law approaches in their engagement with governments.
- Discrimination and poverty initiative: We will partner with organisations working on poverty and socio-economic disadvantage to investigate the ways in which discrimination and poverty fuel one another. We will develop guidance on the ways in which equality laws can be deployed in the fight for economic equality against poverty and produce recommendations for how the law needs to adapt to address poverty as both a cause and consequence of discrimination. We will share our evidence, raise awareness and foster collaboration among anti-discrimination and anti-poverty activists and campaigners.
What will be the outcome?
Ultimately, we aim to ensure that equality laws are adapted and implemented to address global inequality challenges.
We will achieve this by developing knowledge and understanding of the ways in which the interpretation, application and implementation equality laws needs to develop to respond to algorithmic decision-making technologies, climate change and socio-economic disadvantage. We will equip equality activists with (1) evidence on the role and relevance of equality laws in these areas; and (2) new standards for the development, implementation and application of equality laws, enabling them to advocate effectively for equality law responses to global equality challenges.