In December 2021, the United States, Australia, Denmark and Norway announced the Export Controls and Human Rights Initiative to address export controls and human rights particularly in the area of misuse of certain advanced technologies by authoritarian governments for surveillance and human rights abuses. See Update of December 14, 2021. Since that meeting, the list of “Subscribing States” to this Export Controls and Human Rights Initiative has grown to include: Albania, Australia, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Czechia, Denmark, Ecuador, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Japan, Kosovo, Latvia, The Netherlands, New Zealand, North Macedonia, Norway, Republic of Korea, Slovakia, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
On March 30. 2023, at the second meeting of the Summit for Democracy, the participating states endorsed a voluntary Code of Conduct. This code calls for Subscribing States to:
- Make efforts to ensure, consistent with applicable law and existing multilateral commitments, that our domestic legal, regulatory, policy and enforcement tools are appropriate and updated to control the export of dual-use goods or technologies to end users that could misuse them for the purposes of serious violations or abuses of human rights.
- Consult with the private sector, academia, and civil society representatives on human rights concerns and effective implementation of export control measures.
- Share information with each other on emerging threats and risks associated with the trade of goods, software, and technologies that pose human rights concerns.
- Share, develop and implement best practices on export controls of dual-use goods and technologies that could be misused, reexported, or transferred in a manner that could result in serious violations or abuses of human rights.
- Encourage the private sectors to conduct due diligence in line with national law and the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights or other complementing international instruments, while enabling non-subscribing states to do the same.
- Seek to improve the capacity of States that have not subscribed to the Code of Conduct to do the same in accordance with national programs and procedures.
Subscribing States intend to meet at least annual to further develop the workings and application of the Code of Conduct.
Separately, the White House on March 30, 2023, released a Joint Statement on Efforts to Counter the Proliferation and Misuse of Commercial Spyware. This statement notes that the governments of Australia, Canada, Costa Rica, Denmark, France, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States recognize the threat posed by the misuse of commercial spyware and the need for strict domestic and international controls on the proliferation and use of such technology. According to the statement, such spyware has “been used to target and intimidate perceived opponents and facilitate efforts to curb dissent; limit freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly, or association; enable human rights violations and abuses or suppression of civil liberties; or track or target individuals without proper legal authorization, safeguards, or oversight.” The involved countries intend to work together to develop and implement policies “to discourage the misuse of commercial spyware and encourage the development and implementation of responsible use principles that are consistent with respect for universal human rights, the rule of law, and civil rights and civil liberties.”