MUTARE– Civic players are inching government towards adopting international principles which guide responsible investments and ensure the protection of human rights, through an independent commission.
Through the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) a process of adopting and domesticating the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, by setting a National Action Plan is gathering pace.
In this process the commission is working closely with the Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (ZELA), a public interest law organization promoting just, equitable and sustainable utilization of natural resources.
Royce Midzi human rights officer under the ZHRC Thematic working group of the Environment, told delegates at all stakeholders meeting that works to adopt the UN principles through a the National Action Plan have advanced.
He said attaining Sustainable Development Goals SDGs entails sustainable business investments which allowing the full range of rights of vulnerable groups in our society, obligating states to protect rights, corporates to respect and provide access to remedy.
“It’s encouraging to see that there has been work in preparation of a National Action Plan which is all inclusive, because sustainable development hinges on all key in all sectors operating sustainably.
“Taking cognizance of SDGs we agreed that it was imperative to have the NAP to focus on inclusivity- bottom up approach- look beyond to the people in rural communities who are most affected in the emergence of conflicts
“We need to push for the representation of all groups whenever there is formulation of law to ensure that even vulnerable groups are also included in the policy considerations,” he said.
Midzi said civic organisations should lobby and advocate government arms to ensure that they understand what the UN principles entail, for buy in from key decision making institutions like parliament.
He said through preliminary findings on the research conducted on the sectors there is evidence of gaps, which call for a broader national baseline survey to show the level of compliance to human rights by businesses.
“For every country to implement these guiding principles they should develop a national action plan, preliminary finding of the research conducted on three key areas agriculture, mining and tourism show gaps.
“This is the work we are pushing, with ZELA so that we provide empirical evidence of where we are lagging as well as identifying areas of collaboration with civic society organisations.
“We need to convince parliament and government to have a proper buy in of what we want to achieve by having this national action plan,” said Midzi.
Nyaradzo Mutonhori ZELA senior legal officer, said for the key economic sectors of tourism, agriculture and mining which contribute towards the Vision 2030 of an Upper Middle Income Economy to be sustainable, investments must respect human rights.
“Business investments across sectors should also leverage on international certifications like the Kimberly Process Certification Scheme which set minimum standards for enterprises to respect human rights, said Mutonhori.
“We are pushing that all business investments whether local or foreign investors should operate in a responsible manner which does not infringe on the human rights of the people and contribute meaningfully to the fiscus through paying taxes,” said Mutonhori.
The UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs) is an instrument consisting of 31 principles implementing the “Protect, Respect and Remedy” framework on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises.
The Human Rights Council endorsed the Guiding Principles in its resolution 17/4 of 16 June 2011 to provide an authoritative global standard for preventing and addressing the risk of adverse human rights impacts linked to business activity.