THE HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION WELCOMES THE DECISION BY COPPERBELT MINISTER, MR. BOWMAN LUSAMBO, TO ENGAGE INVESTORS ON MATTERS OF BUSINESS AND HUMAN RIGHTS
The Human Rights Commission wishes to commend Copperbelt Province Minister, Mr. Bowman Lusambo, for engaging Business Enterprises on their responsibility to incorporate and respect human rights in their core operations.
The Minister’s position is in line with the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights which all UN member states are expected to implement in order to minimise the environmental and human rights impacts caused by business enterprises. The UN Guiding Principles place obligations on the Government to protect against human rights abuses, including businesses, through effective policies, legislation, regulations and adjudication. They also place a responsibility on Business Enterprises to respect human rights, by avoiding infringing on the rights of individuals, communities and workers and also to address negative impacts caused by their operations.
The Human Rights Commission in conjunction with the Government has conducted a National Baseline Assessment on Business and Human Rights in Zambia and the findings have exposed glaring gaps in both enforcing and implementing the UN Guiding Principles. It is therefore desirable that for all stakeholders to closely work with the Government to come up a National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights to provide a comprehensive and predictable guidance on protecting human rights by all business enterprises operating in Zambia regardless of their size, sector, location, ownership and structure.
The National Action Plan will also provide an opportunity for both the Government and Business Enterprises to effectively discharge their obligations under international human rights law under Business and Human Rights.
Though the Minister’s pronouncements and actions are the expected standard conduct of Government under UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, he deserves commendation because it is rare to hear public officials demanding respect for human rights from business enterprises. Most leaders have been focussing on encouraging investors and highlighting the expected benefits through promised financial investment and employment creation at the expense of considering the negative environmental and human rights impacts caused by business enterprises on individuals, communities and workers.
The Government is encouraged to come up with appropriate laws, policies and procedures and effectively enforce them in order to promote strict adherence to the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights in Zambia. It is also recommended that, as Business Corporations negotiate for investment incentives, the Government should also ensure that respect for protecting the environment and human rights becomes an integral part of the development and investment agreements.
It must be appreciated that by dealing with perennial complaints of environmental degradation and poor conditions of services caused and practised by business enterprises, the government is dealing with the symptoms of an underlying problem, which is lack of protection and respect for human rights of individuals, local communities and workers by both the Government and respective business enterprises.
The demand by Mr. Lusambo to Business Corporation to ensure that the affected communities participate in decision making on matters affecting them is commendable because it is also in line with a human rights-based approach to sustainable development.
[The Human Rights Commission is a National Human Rights Institution established under Article 230 of the Zambian Constitution (Amendment) Act No. 2 of 2016 with an overall mandate and obligation of ensuring that the Bill of Rights is upheld and promoted]
HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION