In Uganda, the business community, government and civil society groups are coming together to strengthen the protection of human rights.
Five messages came across loud and clear – they are not unique to Uganda; in fact they echo throughout East Africa and beyond:
1. Respect for human rights is good for business
Consumers, investors and regulators increasingly demand that businesses know and show their human rights impact. In turn, businesses are demanding the same of their suppliers and business partners. Having a Business and Human Rights Toolkit in place; including a policy, training, due diligence, reporting and an operational level grievance mechanism can give businesses in Uganda the upper hand when it comes to competing for international contracts.
2. Failure to respect human rights has “hard” consequences
Businesses cannot afford to treat human rights compliance as an optional exercise in corporate social responsibility. Nor can they rely on loop holes in the domestic legal system. The only way to reliably reduce the risk of association with adverse human rights impacts is to take steps to operationalize the UN Guiding Principles, including by implementing our Business and Human Rights Toolkit.
3. Ugandan businesses are at various stages in their human rights journey – they need tailored support and advice which reflects this
Many multinational enterprises already have human rights policies and systems in place. Operating subsidiaries in Uganda and elsewhere are asked to comply with these policies and contribute to human rights due diligence. This process can be further strengthened by training of key personnel in Uganda on human rights compliance and how international human rights interact with local law.
4. Business must play a role in advocating for national legislation to protect human rights
The primary responsibility to protect, respect and fulfill human rights still rests with the state. Like in every country, there are gaps in the Ugandan system which need to be addressed to ensure a level playing field for businesses operating here and access to an effective remedy for human rights victims. This came up in Uganda’s recent Universal Periodic Review and it is a positive step that the Ministry of Justice is working on a National Action Plan on business and human rights. It is crucial that business is given a voice in this process.
5. It is difficult to build leverage where there is little competition between suppliers
The UN Guiding Principles require that businesses use leverage over their suppliers to prevent or mitigate an adverse human rights impact.
For a detailed report, visit Lexology