African Coalition for Corporate Accountability
Working together to protect human rights

I caught up with the new Project's Coordinator of the ACCA to interview him about his career path and vision for the ACCA. Read the full interview below!

When did you first take an interest in BHR? Was there a specific moment or experience that led you into the field?

The very first time I took an interest in the in BHR was in 2006, a year before obtaining my Law degree. Part of the requirements to graduate from the Catholic University was to submit a dissertation (called: Mémoire de Licence en Droit). I selected a topic relating to Business and Human Rights (BHR): The title of my dissertation was: the Permanent Sovereignty of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) over its natural resources. Part of the reason I chose this topic is because the DRC (my country of birth), many communities’ lives have been adversely impacted by the “contract leonin” which has been signed by a few multinational companies, in particular  especially the Chinese who signed the contract with the DRC government at the expenses of the human rights of the affected communities. Whilst compiling the research on this topic, I came across with so many concepts linked to BHR such as the Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC), access to remedy, Transnational Corporations (TNCs) along with other international legal frameworks such as the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Tripartite Declaration, OECD Guidelines on MNCs, Declaration of the Rights of indigenous people, Declaration of the Rights to Development, etc. 

When I started working with a local NGO in the DRC, Observatoire Gouvernance et Paix (OGP) which is currently headed by Eric Kajemba, where did research on mining companies and their compliance with national legislation. I then started a new job at a local NGOs called: Strong Roots DRC, where we worked with local communities and indigenous people living in affected areas (Mbuti, in Kahuzi Biega Park). During my time at Strong Roots DRC, we empowered affected communities on a range of issues including: environmental protection; FPIC; access to remedy; and other environmental issues.

As I started to have a clearer vision of the work in the field of BHR, so did my passion for BHR. A defining moment came whilst completing my LLM at the Centre for Human Rights (CHR), University of Pretoria when I completed an advanced short course on BHR in 2016 and attended the 2016 ACCA GA. This experience prompted me to commence work on my LLD thesis on BHR. The topic that I am currently researching is: A legal analysis of the Rights to Development in relation to Corporate Responsibility in conflict zones, case study of TNCs operating in the DRC. 

Tell us more about your experience at the 2016 ACCA GA

I had a very good experience at the 2016 ACCA GA. The issues discussed during the sessions were very insightful and there was a good participation from CSOs and individuals working in the field with whom I could interact.  What marked me was the sheer determination of the ACCA’s member organisations to the ACCA’s mission, vision and goals that they plan to achieve on in the short to medium and long term to better support African communities whose lives are adversely impacted by the activities of MNCs.

Tell us about your previous engagement with communities in the DRC

My previous engagement with communities in the DRC, involved working with the indigenous people called the Bambuti and other local communities affected by forceful relocation resulting from  of the expropriation of land without or very little compensation (after litigation). The activities in which we were involved  range from capacity building sessions on the protection of natural resources, education on the environment, and access to justice for victims of land expropriation. 

In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges facing the African continent in terms of BHR?

In my opinion, the biggest challenges facing the African continent CSOs in terms of BHR include:

- Security and protection of human rights defenders;
- Access to remedy for local communities and lack of national legislation, NAPs, and other regulations regarding in terms of BHR;
- Lack of a legal binding document to meet the expectations of the communities who we serve in the struggle to end the impunity of TNCs;
- A lack of funding for CSOs; and
- Political interference in this area
- A lack of adequate resources, knowledge and training in this field.

How can CSOs better ensure that communities’ rights are respected by companies?

CSOs can better ensure that communities’ rights are respected by companies by establishing ways in which companies can be held accountable. CSO can ensure that companies are made aware of the different existing legal frameworks both nationally and internationally. Both judicial and non-judicial mechanisms need to be established which can assess the extent to which companies comply with the existing regulations and their own voluntary mechanisms. CSOs in favour of the treaty should continue to advocate for a legally binding treaty to hold TNCs accountable and end impunity. 

What made you apply for the position at the ACCA 

The reasons that prompted me to apply for this position are threefold:

Firstly, I am passionate about the rights of communities and victims of human rights violations. Secondly, I wanted to be part of team of human rights defenders at this critical moment with whom I could develop my unique skillset and experience and work together to help in the struggle to end corporate impunity. I saw the ACCA as a platform on which to amplify Africa’s voice both regionally and internationally on pertinent issues of business and human rights on the continent. I am of the belief that the ACCA is the right place for me to achieve these goals, so I am at the right place. 
 
How do you see your contribution to the ACCA improving African communities’ lives?
 
Part of the ACCA’s work involves working towards the realisation of community rights through its work streams, namely: access to remedy and FPIC. I plan to use these reports as part of the ACCA’s advocacy strategy. I also look forward to working closely with both the ACCA’s member organisations and partner organisations to help empower communities through capacity building sessions and other issued relating to BHR strategies to reach this goal. In essence, my purpose is to strengthen the ACCA’s advocacy work by formulating effective strategies aimed at decision-makers on a local, national, regional and international level. Other strategies that we bring on board are aimed at both national and international companies to respect the human rights of communities.   

When did you first take an interest in BHR? Was there a specific moment or experience that led you into the field?

The very first time I took an interest in the in BHR was in 2006, a year before obtaining my Law degree. Part of the requirements to graduate from the Catholic University was to submit a dissertation (called: Mémoire de Licence en Droit). I selected a topic relating to Business and Human Rights (BHR): The title of my dissertation was: the Permanent Sovereignty of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) over its natural resources. Part of the reason I chose this topic is because the DRC (my country of birth), many communities’ lives have been adversely impacted by the “contract leonin” which has been signed by a few multinational companies, in particular  especially the Chinese who signed the contract with the DRC government at the expenses of the human rights of the affected communities. Whilst compiling the research on this topic, I came across with so many concepts linked to BHR such as the Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC), access to remedy, Transnational Corporations (TNCs) along with other international legal frameworks such as the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Tripartite Declaration, OECD Guidelines on MNCs, Declaration of the Rights of indigenous people, Declaration of the Rights to Development, etc.

When I started working with a local NGO in the DRC, Observatoire Gouvernance et Paix (OGP) which is currently headed by Eric Kajemba, where did research on mining companies and their compliance with national legislation. I then started a new job at a local NGOs called: Strong Roots DRC, where we worked with local communities and indigenous people living in affected areas (Mbuti, in Kahuzi Biega Park). During my time at Strong Roots DRC, we empowered affected communities on a range of issues including: environmental protection; FPIC; access to remedy; and other environmental issues.

As I started to have a clearer vision of the work in the field of BHR, so did my passion for BHR. A defining moment came whilst completing my LLM at the Centre for Human Rights (CHR), University of Pretoria when I completed an advanced short course on BHR in 2016 and attended the 2016 ACCA GA. This experience prompted me to commence work on my LLD thesis on BHR. The topic that I am currently researching is: A legal analysis of the Rights to Development in relation to Corporate Responsibility in conflict zones, case study of TNCs operating in the DRC.

Tell us more about your experience at the 2016 ACCA GA

I had a very good experience at the 2016 ACCA GA. The issues discussed during the sessions were very insightful and there was a good participation from CSOs and individuals working in the field with whom I could interact.  What marked me was the sheer determination of the ACCA’s member organisations to the ACCA’s mission, vision and goals that they plan to achieve on in the short to medium and long term to better support African communities whose lives are adversely impacted by the activities of MNCs.

Tell us about your previous engagement with communities in the DRC

My previous engagement with communities in the DRC, involved working with the indigenous people called the Bambuti and other local communities affected by forceful relocation resulting from  of the expropriation of land without or very little compensation (after litigation). The activities in which we were involved  range from capacity building sessions on the protection of natural resources, education on the environment, and access to justice for victims of land expropriation.

In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges facing the African continent in terms of BHR?

In my opinion, the biggest challenges facing the African continent CSOs in terms of BHR include:

- Security and protection of human rights defenders;

- Access to remedy for local communities and lack of national legislation, NAPs, and other regulations regarding in terms of BHR;

- Lack of a legal binding document to meet the expectations of the communities who we serve in the struggle to end the impunity of TNCs;

- A lack of funding for CSOs; and

- Political interference in this area

- A lack of adequate resources, knowledge and training in this field.

How can CSOs better ensure that communities’ rights are respected by companies?

CSOs can better ensure that communities’ rights are respected by companies by establishing ways in which companies can be held accountable. CSO can ensure that companies are made aware of the different existing legal frameworks both nationally and internationally. Both judicial and non-judicial mechanisms need to be established which can assess the extent to which companies comply with the existing regulations and their own voluntary mechanisms. CSOs in favour of the treaty should continue to advocate for a legally binding treaty to hold TNCs accountable and end impunity.

What made you apply for the position at the ACCA

The reasons that prompted me to apply for this position are threefold:

Firstly, I am passionate about the rights of communities and victims of human rights violations. Secondly, I wanted to be part of team of human rights defenders at this critical moment with whom I could develop my unique skillset and experience and work together to help in the struggle to end corporate impunity. I saw the ACCA as a platform on which to amplify Africa’s voice both regionally and internationally on pertinent issues of business and human rights on the continent. I am of the belief that the ACCA is the right place for me to achieve these goals, so I am at the right place.

How do you see your contribution to the ACCA improving African communities’ lives?

Part of the ACCA’s work involves working towards the realisation of community rights through its work streams, namely: access to remedy and FPIC. I plan to use these reports as part of the ACCA’s advocacy strategy. I also look forward to working closely with both the ACCA’s member organisations and partner organisations to help empower communities through capacity building sessions and other issued relating to BHR strategies to reach this goal. In essence, my purpose is to strengthen the ACCA’s advocacy work by formulating effective strategies aimed at decision-makers on a local, national, regional and international level. Other strategies that we bring on board are aimed at both national and international companies to respect the human rights of communities.  

Guillain Koko and Damian Oakes 

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