Business and human rights is an area of law that is still developing and has to do with the relationship between business and human rights, particularly human rights issues arising as the result of business undertakings and the violations that might be associated with undertakings.
There has been significant development of soft laws and a strong push for the development of hard law in the area of business and human rights. Firstly, the United Nations’ Protect, Respect and Remedy Framework was adopted to define the contours of business and human rights and this framework was subsequently supported by the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.
Secondly, Voluntary Principles (VP) on Security and Human Rights which is an international multi-stakeholder initiative which articulates a set of principles developed to guide extractive companies (Oil, gas and mining companies) in ensuring the safety and security of their operations, personnel and facilities in a manner that promotes respect for human rights.
The United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights provide for three major pillars.The first is the state’s duty to protect human rights. The second is the corporate responsibilityto respect human rights. And the third is access to remedies by victims of human rightsviolations, whether by the state or by corporations.
On the other hand, the Voluntary Principles gives guidelines on what companies can do to ensure that the balance between security and human rights is struck. It prescribes steps that companies can take in collaboration with other stakeholders to avoid security-related human rights infringements in their operations.
The Voluntary Principles is a viable tool for addressing the issues that emanate from security and human rights which is a specie of the broader business and human rights challenges that confront every country. The UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights deals with the larger impact of businesses generally on human rights but the VP is narrower relating only to security and human rights in the extractive industry.
Under the African human rights system, the extractive industries are recognised as an area that could potentially affect human rights and as such the rights of people to collective wealth and natural resources have been enshrined as a collective right in the African Charter. Particularly, Article 21, which talks about the rights of peoples to their wealth and natural resources and which talks about the rights of people to be compensated in the case of exploitation or despoliation. And it says that it is the responsibility to harness these resources for the betterment of the people or of the community.
In the context of the exploitation of the extractive minerals or natural resources, violations occur which may pertain to labour rights violations by companies themselves which might have to do with the environment, pollution, contamination of water, destruction of land or devastation of the spiritual and cultural heritages of African community.
To be continued…
- Business and human rights in an African context – Chairman Okolosie, Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria
- Human Rights Perspective of the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights – Being a presentation at 2019 AGC of NBA at the session on “Examining Security and Human Rights Issues in Nigeria’s Extractive Industry” by Tony Ojukwu Esq, ES NHRC.
Augusta Yaakugh is a lawyer, gender advocate and human rights activist based in Abuja, Nigeria.
[email protected], 08065656020