The UN Countering Terrorist Travel Programme and Human Rights

The UN Countering Terrorist Travel Programme (“CT Travel”), a global flagship initiative of the UN Office of Counter-Terrorism (UNOCT), implemented with the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Executive Directorate (CTED), the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the United Nations Office of Information and Communication Technology (OICT), and the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL), assists Member States in building their capabilities to detect and counter terrorists and other serious criminals while protecting and promoting human rights. This is achieved through the collection and analysis of Advance Passenger Information (API) and Passenger Name Record (PNR) data, combined with the use of international databases, such as those of INTERPOL, to detect suspected and unknown terrorist individuals and serious criminals, and enhancing counter-terrorism information sharing among Member States, in accordance with Security Council resolutions 2178 (2014), 2396 (2017), and 2482 (2019).

Human Rights and API and PNR Data

Ensuring the promotion and protection of human rights are key components of efforts to counter terrorism. In the context of the collection, use and sharing of API and PNR data, it is worthwhile making note of two important human rights-related aspects.

The first aspect to be noted is the right to privacy and data protection, that are inherent in the collection, transmission, use, retention and transfer of passenger data.

The second aspect would include potential human rights risks that are not the result of the collection, transmission, use, retention and transfer of passenger data, but could rather occur where the development and use of enhanced capacity to gather and analyse personal data may contribute to aggravating human rights concerns that already exist, independently from the implementation of API and PNR.

Human rights considerations are integrated across all of the Programme’s four key pillars: (i) provision of legislative assistance to develop API and PNR normative frameworks; (ii) supports towards the set-up of a Passenger Information Unit (PIU); (iii) carrier engagement and connectivity; and (iv) technical support and expertise for implementation and use of the ‘goTravel’ software, as further described in this paper.

In order to ensure that human rights considerations are adequately addressed within the framework of the CT Travel Programme, a five-step process is followed by UNOCT and the CT Travel Programme Partners:

1. Human rights considerations are an integral part of the overall deep-dive assessment, led by CTED, and involving UNOCT and all other Programme Partners, when assessing and identifying the technical assistance needs of beneficiary Member States.

2. Following the deep-dive assessment, human rights considerations are considered and incorporated within the drafting of the country roadmap intended for programmatic implementation. When a roadmap is transmitted to a beneficiary Member State, written confirmation of their commitment to implement the recommendations, formulated in line with human rights considerations, is requested and included in a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) jointly signed by UNOCT and the beneficiary Member State. This MoU also aims to provide a formal basis for implementation of the CT Travel Programme in the country and guarantees that the installation and use of the UN goTravel technology will comply with international human rights standards and fundamental freedoms.

3. Human rights safeguards, mainly focused on the protection of personal data and the right to privacy, are also incorporated in the API/PNR model legislative provisions and guidelines, developed under the umbrella of CT Travel, and integrated in the provision of legal advice, legislative assistance, institution-building support and capacity-building training activities.

4. The Programme ensures that human rights safeguards are in place before the Programme’s software solution, ‘goTravel’, is transferred to beneficiaries for technical installation.

5. It is important to note that ‘goTravel’ is compliant with human rights by design. It includes technological safeguards in place inter alia data retention, deletion, masking/unmasking; functions requiring supervisor authorization before access; users activity monitoring; claims and provisions only with designated competent authorities. The Programme is currently in the process of exploring how to institute additional monitoring of the human rights situation in a country once the software has been donated.

To further support and guide implementation of the Programme, UNOCT and CT Travel Programme Partners, will also aim to ensure continuous and close engagement with key human rights entities, including national human rights institutions, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism and the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Privacy.

Ensuring Compliance with the Human Rights Due Diligence Policy 

The CT Travel Programme follows the requirements contained in the United Nations Human Rights Due Diligence Policy (UN HRDDP).

The UN HRDDP is applied throughout the Programme. As such, the CT Travel Programme is committed to ensuring that no technical assistance will be provided where there are substantial grounds indicating that there is a risk of human rights violations.

Additionally, the Programme initiates consultations on human rights concerns and aspects pertaining to API and PNR data and assesses human rights risks in line with the UN-wide human rights' due diligence.