AU, Business executives hold forum to develop policy for companies to be accountable
Business executives from across the globe have held a forum to discuss and deliberate ways on how to ensure better ways in addressing bad conduct and human right abuses meted out to customers by some African business companies in Accra.
The event was also contribute to Africa efforts to create awareness on Business and Human Rights among various stakeholder, including Business enterprises and to ensure that all member States are fully engage in its implementation guided by the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs).
At the launch of two-day meeting organized by African Union (AU) together with United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and other partners like the Government of Japan and the Government of Switzerland would focus on promoting responsible business conduct, including accountability frameworks.
Speaking to journalist at the forum, the Deputy Attorney-General and Justice Minister, Diana Asonaba Dapaah who delivered a speech on behalf of the sector Minister reiterated the need for participants to ensure the purpose of the gathering is well achieved that would make way for business partners across the globe to have good business relations and conduct with clients.
She said government is making the effort to ensure laws concerning business relations on human rights and bad conduct are well addressed in Ghana and other neighboring African countries including the European world.
Based on this, the Dep. Minister categorically stated how government through her outfit has launched the Action Plan for 2023 to ensure responsibilities and good conduct for customers are reached which are already in our Law books are properly enforced, adding, it’s on this note that the Attorney General is on the verge of putting in place a comprehensive management system, tools and amenities in order to ensure a strict and vibrant action plan.
“through the effort of the government, the Attorney-General has put in place better particulars after the launch of the Action Plan and still making the necessary steps to ensure every sector like the government agencies, Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), Non-governmtal Organisations among others are included in the decision making process to ensure the plan achieve it’s main objectives and purpose”, she added.
She assured participants of government effort and plans to make the process of safeguarding human rights and good conduct that are to be drafted are very secured and enforced.
Mr. Issaka Garba Adbou the Ag. Head, Governance and Human Rights Division who spoke on behalf of H.E Amb. Adeoye, commissioner for Political Affair, Peace and Security of the African Union Commission said the caliber of personalities, organizations and interests represented speaks directly to the importance of the objectives of the forum which is the exchange of ideas about positive business practices, and inculcation of human rights standards in business in all its classifications.
“On the onset, allow me to express our gratitude to the government and the people of the Republic of Ghana for hosting this First Business and Human Rights Forum and for the warm hospitality extended to us since our arrival “, he added.
He underscore the importance of the forum, indicating that, “it is not only timely but also appropriate in the sense that it would contribute to the effort of the AU to popularize and build support for the AU Draft Policy on Business and Human Rights and to draw support for its adoption by AU Member States.
“This event will contribute to Africa efforts to create awareness on Business and Human Rights among various stakeholder, including Business enterprises and to ensure that all member States are fully engage in its implementation guided by the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs”, he said.
According to him, the Forum would be a response to the concern raised, adding that, it would significantly contribute to support the Continental Business and Human Rights Agenda.
He noted that although a few African states have far developed or are in the process of developing their individual state policies on Business and Human Rights, these fragmented responses do not hold durable or far-reaching implications for the continent, especially in the face of global challenges like the impact of climate change, and the collective realization of regional and international set goals like Agendas 2030 and 2063, respectively.
He therefore thanked the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP); the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (UN-OHCHR), the United Nations Working Group on Business and Human Rights; the German Development Agency (GIZ) and the other partners like Friedrich Ebert Stiftung African Union Cooperation (FES); and other supporters for putting together such maiden forum.
He further noted that the Draft Policy therefore seeks to facilitate effective implementation of the UN Guiding principles on Business and Human Rights in Africa, taking into consideration the unique peculiarities of the Africa’s business environments by providing policy parameter that will address State Duty to Protect Human Rights in Business.
” Business responsibility to Respect Human Rights; and Access to Remedies of human rights violations in business in Africa as enshrined in the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and relevant jurisprudence of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights”, he noted.
“Today’s event is a culmination of several months of weekly meetings, dedication and painstaking coordination whose success we are all witnessing today”, he noted.
Meanwhile, in the 2001 communication 155/96: Social and Economic Rights Action Center (SERAC) and Center for Economic and Social Rights (CESR) v. Nigeria, the African Commission held that “The intervention of multinational corporations may be a potentially positive force for development if the State and the people concerned are ever mindful of the common good and the sacred rights of individuals and communities”.
In the case before it, the African Commission found that the intervention of multinational corporations in Ogoni land has instead rendered the pollution and environmental degradation to a level humanly unacceptable and thereby making living in the Ogoni land a nightmare.
The African Commission had the opportunity to witness first-hand the deplorable situation in Ogoni land including the environmental degradation during a mission it conducted to Nigeria from the 7th to 14th March 1997.
The decision of the African Commission in Ogoni case is a precedent that demonstrated that State parties to the African Charter have been reminded about their existing obligation to have companies operating in their territory, respect human rights.
The UNGPs along with the soon to be adopted AU Policy on business and human rights are therefore additional tools to strengthen the work being done by the AU human rights organs.
Mr Adbou recalled although a few African states have far developed or are in the process of developing their individual state policies on Business and Human Rights, these fragmented responses do not hold durable or far-reaching implications for the continent, especially in the face of global challenges like the impact of climate change, and the collective realization of regional and international set goals like Agendas 2030 and 2063, respectively.
“The African Business and Human Right Forum is therefore a welcome development, whose objective is intended to provide all stakeholders the needed platform intended to regularly interrogate these issues, with the hope of comparing notes, sharing ideas, and imbibing international best practices from across the globe.”,he noted.
He therefore encouraged participants to actively participate in the discussions, with the aim of proffering workable recommendations for policy makers, member states, corporate entities, and indeed all stakeholders.
In recent years, African governments, national human rights institutions (NHRIs), civil society actors, and businesses have increased their focus on promoting responsible business conduct, including accountability frameworks.
Business actors also demonstrated increased interest in living up to their responsibility to respect human rights as per the United Nations Guiding Principles (UNGPs).
The Forum brought together high profile dignitaries, business executives, CSOs, stakeholders from across Africa and Europe to take stock of progress and discuss challenges and opportunities for promoting responsible business and human rights conduct and corporate accountability across the globe.
The Forum was hosted by the Government of the Republic of Ghana.
Source: Eric Nii Sackey