From the 16th – 18th of September 2014, Natural Justice’s Shalom Ndiku attended the African Regional Forum on Business and Human Rights. The Conference was held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and hosted by the United Nations Working Group on the Issue of Human Rights and Transnational Corporations and other Business Enterprises (the Working Group) at the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa.
The Forum was held with the objective of promoting multi-stakeholder dialogue and cooperation on business and human rights (B&HR). Moreover, the Forum was an opportune moment for these diverse parties to discuss the implementation of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (the GPs) within Africa. The Forum’s goals included advancing the B&HR agenda in Africa; identifying regional implementation practices, challenges and opportunities; and promoting capacity building initiatives on the GPs.
Natural Justice attended parallel sessions during the three days touching on integrating the corporate responsibility to respect human rights across African businesses; non-judicial remedies through operational-level grievance mechanisms; and investment in land by applying a human rights lens. We also participated in a number of side events at the forum, particularly a session hosted by the World Bank Group Compliance Advisor Ombudsman and Global Rights on Participatory Monitoring and Joint Fact Finding when Project impacts are in Dispute.
The majority of attendants were from the civil society side, with a some representation by governments and businesses at the Forum. The event proved to be successful in getting the voices of African persons, organizations, governments and businesses at the continental level within one venue. However, some challenges that arose from the Forum included a poor turnout from businesses and African governments together with a lack of clarity on the implementation of the GPs at the national level through action plans.
Natural Justice shall continue to engage and collaborate with CSOs and communities to keep the discussion on business and human rights alive within the African and Asian context, particularly for the communities based in the countries that we have a presence.