The constitution under A.26 guarantees the right to property and provides that no person shall be deprived of their property without prompt and adequate compensation yet some business enterprises have either ignored this fact or blatantly sought to abuse the rights of citizens.
In a workshop organized by the Advocates Coalition for Development and Environment, the Uganda Human Rights Commission, the Parliamentary Forum on Oil and Gas and the Civil Society Coalition on Oil and Gas one of the issues that was discussed was the role of the business enterprises in the protection of citizen’s rights.
Article 11 of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights enjoins Business Enterprises to respect Human Rights. This means they should avoid infringing on the Human Rights of others and should address adverse Human Rights impacts with which they are involved.
Under A.13 it is stated that the responsibility to respect Human Rights requires that business enterprises avoid causing adverse human rights impacts through their operations and address such impacts when they occur as well as prevent or mitigate the impacts that ensue from their business activity even if they have not directly contributed to such impacts.
Besides the Guidelines require that business enterprises should carry out Human Rights due diligence before undertaking their activities which process should include assessing actual and potential human rights impacts, integrating and acting upon the findings, tracking responses and communicating how impacts are addressed.
Margaret Sekagya the Executive Director of Human Rights Centre Uganda who discussed the Principles comprehensively said business enterprises have the responsibility to protect and not to infringe on the rights of others.
“Are these companies respecting the minimum standards?” Sekaggya Wondered
She said, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General who formulated the guidelines emphasized that the responsibility to respect Human Rights is a global Standard, the expected conduct of all Business Enterprises.
“These have become recognized all over the world.” Sekaggya emphasized.
“So if a company comes to Uganda, we must hold it accountable.” The Human Rights Activist asserted.
“Does it have measures in place to prevent violation, to do mitigation, and to provide remedies where they are necessary?”
She said “These corporations must have a Human Rights Policy, Conduct Human Rights due diligence which includes assessing potential impacts on the business. They have to integrate Human Rights throughout their operations and track and report outcomes.”
“The discovery of Oil and Gas has increased the number of business operations. Citizens need to be protected from Human Rights Abuses and Violations associated with exploration of oil.” She noted.
Margaret Sekaggya also hinted on the duty of the state to ensure that these corporations respect rights of citizens
“It is the state’s responsibility, it must take appropriate steps to prevent and investigate abuse of human rights,” she said
She also pointed out the role of the state in this matter as being able to clearly stipulate that all business enterprises domiciled in their territory or jurisdiction should respect human rights in their operations.
“What does the state do?”
“They enact relevant laws, they provide guidance to companies. They address the common lack of policy and coherence across government agencies dealing with protection of human rights.”
In response, one of the participants in the workshop proposed that the country move from encouraging Corporate Social Responsibility to one of pushing for corporate accountability.
“MPs must pass laws that require these companies to be accountable. It will close down the gaps in regulation.” He stated
Another participant was concerned that the corporations are telling the leaders what they should tell Ugandans.
“The Chinese company comes and tells the government that the land owners are against development. The idea was that the land owners will not be blackmailed. Land owners have now been turned into beggars.” He grumbled.