We, the African Civil Society, commend the African Union, UNDP, OHCHR Working Group, and partners for successfully convening the Second African Business and Human Rights Forum. We appreciate that the Forum brought together various participants from the continent and beyond, who have an interest in the attainment of human rights in the context of business operations, including governments, international and regional organisations, civil society actors, the private sector, academia, and communities affected by business activities among others. The forum whose theme is “For Africa, From Africa”, enabled African Civil Society to reflect on the importance of local perspectives and solutions in the collective effort to implement the UNGPs in relation to operationalising the AfCFTA. It was also an opportunity for civil society actors to underscore the gaps and challenges of the UNGPs and the need for a legally binding instrument on business and human rights. Members emphasised the need for the continent to assert her place in efforts to advance the business and human rights agenda, and as such reiterated the need for moral imperative, commitment, and meaningful stakeholder engagement; collaboration in the development of National Action Plans (NAPs) and legislation on issues of business and human rights.
Therefore, we recommend that the African Governments work closely with all relevant stakeholders, including Civil Society and the Business sector to:
- Engage constructively in the treaty process, build on previous negotiations, and harmonise with human rights and environmental obligations, including by maintaining and strengthening gender-responsive provisions
- Ensure gender-responsive justice in connection with business-related harms, for workers, human rights defenders, and affected communities.
- Take into account the testimonials of community members (especially women) while developing NAPs on BHR in order to generate gender-sensitive Action plans that place the rights of the vulnerable at the centre.
- Make things right when harm occurs, ensure that systems of legal liability and provisions governing access to justice, remedy, and support services are functional and gender-responsive
- Put corporate accountability at the heart of broader measures toward economic, climate, and ecological justice and transformation.
- Align trade and investment agreement negotiations and policies to be people-centered, and employ a human rights-based approach for a progressive socio-economic transformation of Africans.
We call on Businesses to further address internal knowledge gaps on issues relating to business and human rights and adopt functional internal grievance mechanisms to address disputes before they escalate.