On December 10, 2021, the United States joined Australia, Denmark and Norway in announcing the Export Controls and Human Rights Initiative in recognition that “advanced technologies are a vital part of global economic growth and communication, helping people become more interconnected, share knowledge, and advance freedom, democracy, and opportunity” while also acknowledging that authoritarian governments are using such technologies “in connection with serious human rights abuses, both within their countries and across international borders.” In the joint statement announcing the initiative, these countries stated that “legitimate trade in these technologies, and responsible use, is essential for the well-being of our future generations.” The countries announced that over the next year they would commit to working to establish a voluntary, nonbinding written code of conduct “around which like-minded states could politically pledge, to use export control tools to prevent the proliferation of software and other technologies used to enable serious human rights abuses.”

The Export Controls and Human Rights Initiative will seek to address export controls and human rights by:

  • Developing a voluntary written code of conduct intended to guide the application of human rights criteria to export licensing policy and practice.
  • Building policy alignment with likeminded partners that leads to common action, and concrete and practical outcomes.
  • Bringing together policy makers, technical experts, and export control and human rights practitioners to ensure that critical and emerging technologies work for, and not against, democratic societies.
  • Exploring how best to strengthen domestic legal frameworks; share information on threats and risks; share, develop and implement best practices; and improve others’ capacity to do the same.

A Fact Sheet on the initiative is available here. While not signing the joint statement, Canada, France, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom did express support for the Initiative.