The responsibility to sanitise the business environment on the African continent, to strike a balance between the needs of businesses and the rights of the people to a fair life and environment, and to offer a better safety net to Africans by making businesses more responsive to human rights has led to the drafting of the African Union Policy on Business and Human Rights.
This draft document, offering a framework, not only for the prevention of human rights abuses but also for their remediation when these occur across the continent, will be formally presented for adoption by the Heads of states and governments in the Africa Union in due course. These leaders would be equally expected to represent the document for approval and implementation at the various national levels.
The consideration and validation of the draft of the Policy Framework was the subject of a gathering of over 50 participants comprised of representatives of the African Union (AU) member states, regional economic commissions (RECs), national human rights commissions, businesses, the media, and civil society at the African Union Secretariat in Addis Ababa between March 21 and 22.
While noting that Africa has some of the fastest growing economies in the world, and the potential to attract even greater economic investments, Mbari Aristide, the Acting Head of Democracy, Governance, Human Rights and Elections Division of the AU Department of Political Affairs pointed out the AU’s recognition of the need for a business and human rights policy, that is positioned to address some of the essential problems that come with this sort of growth, particularly the tendency for the disregard for human rights.
On his part, the Head of the Political Section of the European Union Delegation to the AU, a crucial facilitator of the process, Luca Zampetti, in his keynote remarks, restated the EU’s willingness to promote business practices anchored on the responsibility and duty to protect human rights in Africa.
The newer draft of the ‘soft law’ as it is referred to, which has emerged from the validation/consultation process will be presented to the AU Specialized Technical Committee (STC) on Justice and Legal Affairs. This would be discussed on May 8 for adoption by the policy organs of the AU, before being finally tabled at the assembly of African Union member states and governments.