1st Business and Human Rights Forum held

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Ghana is hosting the first Business and Human Rights Forum to popularise and build support for the African Union (AU) Draft Policy on Business and Human Rights.

It is recalled that on June 16, 2011, the Human Rights Council, through Resolution 17/4 (Human Rights and Transnational Corporations and other Business Enterprises) endorsed the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs).

The UNGPs are anchored on three foundational principles: the state’s duty to protect 6 human rights, corporate responsibility to respect human rights, and access to remedy.

In a speech read on behalf of Ambassador Bankole Adeoye, Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security of the African Union Commission, Issaka GARBA ABDOU, Ag. Head, Governance and Human Rights Division, observed that there is no one comprehensive policy instrument on Business and Human Rights in Africa.

Additionally, there is no continental platform for experience-sharing, technical assistance, support programmes on Business and human rights across Africa while the continent still continues to experience human and peoples’ rights violations related to business operations.

Hence, the forum in Accra is a response to the concern raised, and will significantly contribute to support the Continental Business and Human Rights Agenda.

He added that the decision by the 18th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union, in January 2012, to establish a Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) and the preamble of the AfCFTA Agreement highlight the importance of mainstreaming human rights into its implementation, and the draft AU Policy on Business and Human Rights will significantly contribute to the success of the implementation of the AfCFTA.

“Against this background, it is our responsibility to advocate for the adoption of the AU Draft Policy on Business and Human Rights for the realisation of the rights to development which is necessary for the realisation of our aspiration set in Agenda 2063, in particular, Aspiration 3 – An Africa of good governance, democracy, respect for human rights, justice and the rule of law.”

For her part, the Deputy Attorney-General and Deputy Minister for Justice, Diana Asonaba Dapaah, stated that discourse on business and human rights continues to take centre-stage particularly after the adoption of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs) by the Human Rights Council in 2011.

“It is anticipated that this forum, drawing on the unique individual and shared experiences of African countries, will present the needed catalyst to advance the trajectory of business and human rights in Africa”.

Ms. Dapaah said the role of businesses within the business and human rights agenda is no mean role that should not be seen as an attack on the undertakings of businesses.

“Rather, businesses should see this agenda as an opportunity to make the necessary positive changes and make the required impact within their respective economies as highlighted in Pillar II of the UNGPs.”

She indicated that Ghana’s unshaken position to protect and advance human rights in general is not unknown.

“In November 2013, Ghana hosted the 9th Biennial Conference of the Network of African National Human Rights Institutions (NANHRI), which addressed the topic of business and human rights, and included thematic sessions on National Action Plans on business and human rights, and transnational cooperation between NHRIs to address business and human rights issues”.

The Deputy Attorney-General stated that Ghana has begun the process of developing a National Action Plan on Business and Human rights.

The objective of the plan will be to mainstream the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights into the Ghanaian existing rules, regulations and policies for the oversight of business and investments in Ghana.

Additionally, a National Steering Committee has been inaugurated for the creation of a National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights.

In recent years, African governments, national human rights institutions, civil society and businesses have increased their focus on promoting responsible business conduct, including accountability frameworks.

The forum was convened by the AU and co-organised by the UNDP, UN Human Rights Commission, with support from the Japanese and Swiss governments.

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