Impact: Quality of life impacts, Public Policy or Services impacts, Societal impacts

    Description of impact

    We apply our research to promote human dignity worldwide. We have (1) informed a recommendation to the Myanmar government that it adopt a moratorium on capital punishment, which has been cited by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights; (2) aided the Sudanese Human Rights Initiative to prevent wrongful punishments and inspired UN Member States and leaders to report on human rights violations in the Sudan; (3) influenced the development of the UN Guiding Principles of the Group of Governmental Experts on Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems; and (4) developed international standards and ethics certification, produced by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, regulating emerging technologies.

    Details of Impact
    Recommending a Moratorium on Capital Punishment in Myanmar

    In 2017, Yorke advised the high-level Myanmar government Workshop on the Moratorium of the Death Penalty, organised by the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission and Asia Pacific Forum of National Human Rights Institutions. Workshop attendees included the Attorney General, Justices of the Supreme Court, Government Ministers, parliamentarians, civil society, and media. Yorke “outlined international perspectives on the death penalty” and “raised pertinent points regarding the denunciation of the death penalty as an expression of … state sovereignty and the solidity of the human rights standards for rejecting the use of the death penalty and for enhancing … human dignity…”

    Based on a review of Myanmar’s UPR cycles, Yorke suggested the Myanmar government was amenable to a moratorium, and led the Workshop in drafting an Outcome Statement (OS) recommending that Myanmar’s government adopt an official moratorium [S01]. The OS remains under the government’s consideration. In their stakeholder report to Myanmar’s 2020 UPR, Yorke, Nazir and Storey recommended the OS be “implement[ed]”; a recommendation expressly noted by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights across 64 stakeholder submissions [S02].

    Safeguarding Human Rights in the Sudan

    In 2014, the Sudanese Human Rights Initiative (SHRI) represented, in Sudanese courts and African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, Meriam Ibrahim, a pregnant woman sentenced to death for sexual immorality and 100 lashes for apostasy after marrying a Christian man. Due to “their expertise”, the SHRI’s Director “sought advice from … Yorke and … Nazir on the application of international human rights law and Islamic law in the case…” which “helped …[the] legal team to prevent both …punishments” and to free Meriam [S03]. Meriam’s case “triggered outrage and condemnation around the world…” and, in October 2014, BCU hosted ‘Meriam Ibrahim: The Case that Gripped the World’ to discuss the case’s human rights implications, with panelists including the SHRI’s Director and the Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) [S04]. Subsequently, across three grants, the FCO Human Rights and Democracy Programme awarded Yorke and the SHRI £244K+ to promote freedom of religion and access to justice, build capacities, and safeguard human rights in the Sudan. This included training for “Sudanese judges, lawyers, media and civil society” which “informed the SHRI’s collaboration with the African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies … where [they] worked together to have charges of apostasy … dropped by the Sudanese Ministry of Justice against 27 people, including 3 children...” [S03].

    In 2016, Sudan’s National Intelligence Security Services prevented SHRI members from travelling to Geneva to participate in Sudan’s UPR pre-session. In Geneva, Yorke, Nazir and Storey, joined other organisations to “prepare a cross-regional statement, alerting the pre-session to the travel restrictions….” and then “coordinated lobbying 15 missions with member state delegations ….and 36 NGOs.” Their work “led to UN Member State delegations raising human rights concerns” at Sudan’s 2016 UPR [S03]. The BCU team’s work was crucial, with the UN Secretary General (UNSG) accounting for the travel restrictions in his annual report and commenting heavily on the issue of intimidation and reprisals (including travel bans) in his conclusions and recommendations. In particular, the UNSG welcomed continued efforts to assist groups subject to such action (like the BCU team did), particularly by “raising their cases…to the Human Rights Council…” In addition, the UN Independent Expert on the Situation of Human Rights in the Sudan, noting the travel restrictions, urged the Sudanese government “to enable a conducive environment for a free and inclusive national dialogue by respecting the basic….rights of Sudanese people…” [S05].

    Informing the UN Group of Governmental Experts on Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems (UN GGE on LAWS); Developing the Guiding Principles on LAWS

    Since 2016, Ulgen has been involved as an Academic Legal Expert to the drafting committees and meetings of the UN GGE on LAWS. She was involved in the UN Fifth Review Conference of High Contracting Parties (HCP) to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) (12-16 December 2016), which led to the historic decision by HCP to formalise LAWS discussions and establish the UN GGE on LAWS. At that point, BCU was the only UK university represented at the CCW by an expert on the law and ethics of LAWS. The Secretary General’s welcome statement to the Conference noted that LAWS are “increasingly challenging for humanity … with serious ramifications for international law.” He commended HCP for rising to the challenge by establishing the GGE as “a welcome step to consider how the international community can take a proactive approach to this critical issue.” [S06].

    The UN GGE on LAWS, which has been meeting since 2017, is composed of State representatives, military experts, lawyers, academics, civil partnership organisations, and UN agencies, and operates under the auspices of the 1980 UN Convention on CCW.

    Ulgen’s work has been instrumental in steering the UN GGE on LAWS deliberations and influenced the drafting of legal and ethical rules on emerging technologies in the area of LAWS, leading to the Guiding Principles of the UN GGE on LAWS. For instance, her report Definition and Regulation of LAWS assisted HCP to reach a common definition of LAWS (based on maintaining human agency and responsibility, and human dignity that covers ethical considerations under The Martens Clause); review the merits of regulatory proposals; and develop the human control elements of a weapons system. Her Command Responsibility and LAWS report considered the different types of human control exercised by commanders/superiors in order to fulfil specific duties; the doctrine of command responsibility; and the impact of LAWS. Several HCP have endorsed her submissions during UN GGE on LAWS sessions. For example, Chile commented “….the terms ‘responsibility’ and ‘accountability’ are different… [BCU’s] explanation is the right one…” and Germany stated “[The] suggestion made by [BCU]….clarifying the concepts of responsibility and accountability …should be reflected…” Ulgen’s contributions are reflected in the Guiding Principles on LAWS affirmed in 2019 [S07].

    Developing International Standards and Ethics Certification for the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE)

    Ulgen’s work influenced the development of ethics, principles and values in international standards formulated by IEEE, the world’s largest technical professional association for electrical and electronic engineering, which produces technical standards (known as P series) for products, services, and systems. The IEEE Standards Association asked Ulgen to participate in developing the IEEE Global Initiative on Ethics of Autonomous and Intelligent Systems, Ethically Aligned Design, a global treatise of high-level ethical principles, key issues, and practical recommendations intended to inform the public, engineers, policy makers, and manufacturers of autonomous and intelligent systems (A/IS). Ulgen’s treatise chapter, Classical Ethics in A/IS, draws on her Kantian ethics and human dignity research. [S08].

    As an Expert Member of IEEE Standards Working Groups P7007 Ontological Standard for Ethically Driven Robotics and Automation Systems, and P7000 Model Process for Addressing Ethical Concerns During System Design, Ulgen drafted legal principles and ethical values applicable to engineers, designers, programmers, and companies in the design and development of products, services, and systems. She developed the P7007 standard to incorporate legal responsibility and accountability, and drafted use cases demonstrating their application and representation in real-world RAS operations (e.g. healthcare robots; LAWS). She also drafted specific ontology models for data protection, privacy, and human dignity ethics. Ulgen contributed to extensive review and revision of the next P7000 draft, with amendments reflecting human dignity ethics and legal requirements [S09-10].

    As Chair of the Accountability Expert Focus Group (AEFG) for IEEE’s Ethics Certification Programme for Autonomous and Intelligent Systems (ECPAIS), Ulgen led on the development and drafting of the world’s first accountability requirements for ethical certification of public and private sector A/IS. To guide technological development in the absence of specific laws, she developed ethical values of prevention of harm; human agency; human dignity; privacy and data protection; fairness; transparency; accountability; and responsibility. These ethical values form the basis to the accountability certification requirements, used to certify that a product/service/system incorporating emerging technologies is ethically compliant. Companies, organisations, and governmental entities across the globe can implement the accountability certification requirements to enable cross-jurisdictional trade. Ulgen produced the final AEFG Process and Technical Reports, explaining the organisation of work, rationale for the ethical values framework, and detailing the accountability certification and evidentiary requirements [S010].
    Impact date20142020
    Category of impactQuality of life impacts, Public Policy or Services impacts, Societal impacts