08 September 2023
By Clarity Sibanda
In the face of mounting pressure to extract essential minerals needed fueling economies, there has been a disturbing rise in both the frequency and scope of business-related and human rights violations. The current policy frameworks in countries like Mozambique, Zambia, and Zimbabwe lack effective means to hold transnational corporations (TNCs) accountable for the human rights violations they commit. States bear the ultimate responsibility for ensuring accountability for violations taking place within their territories. In response to these concerns, efforts are underway to develop a legally binding instrument (LBI) to regulate the activities of TNCs in relation to human rights. In these countries, the operation of corporations in the natural resources sector, particularly mining, has in some instances resulted in human and environmental rights violations. Amongst the affected, the most vulnerable group is the substantial population of children and youth.
It is against this backdrop that the Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (ZELA) convened the YICA treaty strategy meeting on the 7th of September 2023. The purpose of this meeting was to bolster the youths’ capacity to offer their unique perspectives, experiences, concerns, and recommendations regarding transnational corporations’ activities and their ramifications on human rights. The ultimate goal is to foster an all-encompassing and robust framework that advances corporate accountability while safeguarding human rights in the realm of transnational business operations. Moreover, integral to this endeavor is the collection of valuable insights and recommendations from the youth, which will serve as a vital foundation for the development of a binding legal instrument that effectively addresses human rights violations perpetrated by TNCs.
Recalling the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, specifically the corporate responsibility to respect human rights, whose foundational principles call for business enterprises to respect human rights. This means that they should avoid infringing on the human rights of others and should address adverse human rights impacts with which they are involved.
Reaffirming fundamental human rights and the need to undertake meaningful consultation with potentially affected rights holders and other relevant parties through free, prior, and informed consent.
Recognizing that Africa has the youngest population in the world and that their voices matter in any development initiatives. In the context of business activities, the best interests of this population segment should be considered and respected, and redress undertaken.
Recognizing the strides that have been made to adopt the international legally binding instrument to regulate, in international human rights law, the activities of transnational corporations and other business enterprises and;
Appreciating that strong, enforceable laws and regulations remain the best means of ensuring companies respect human rights.
We therefore make our submissions.
-The agreement must establish safeguards against undue corporate influence in government decision-making within the realm of business activities. As representatives of the youth, we strongly advocate for the development and implementation of robust enforcement mechanisms by the LBI to hold transnational corporations accountable for any violations of community rights.
-To effectively discourage human rights violations, it is crucial to introduce deterrent penalties, including the potential closure of companies found guilty of infringing upon the rights of communities. Additionally, states should lift the corporate veil, aligning with the provisions outlined in Articles 8, 9, 13, and 14 of the LBI on Business and Human Rights.
-The LBI must ensure access to information is realized. This includes, but is not limited to, information held by businesses and others and legal aid relevant to pursuing an effective remedy; the right to access information shall also extend to human rights defenders and include information relative to all the different legal entities involved in the transnational business activity alleged to violate human rights, such as property titles, contracts, business ownership and control, communications, and other relevant documents.
-The LBI should address the gendered nature of business-related abuses and work towards resolving them. By acknowledging and confronting these gendered dynamics, the LBI can ensure a more inclusive and equitable approach to addressing human rights violations within the business sector.
-African states must embrace mandatory obligations, including incorporating human rights due diligence across all aspects of their domestic legislation. By doing so, they can enhance their capacity to prevent and mitigate potential human rights abuses stemming from transnational business activities.
To get involved in the Youth Initiative for Corporate Accountability campaign, follow the hashtag #CorporateAccountability.
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