The United Nations Working Group on business and human rights has commended Kenya on the progress made in the development of the first National Action Plan on business and human rights in Africa; a plan that incorporates human rights as part of ethical business practice.
The group is now calling for more assistance to support small business enterprises and local communities to incorporate good business practices; the Group is however, challenging international businesses based in the country to respect human rights by applying best practices as exhibited in their countries of origin.
The delegation of the UN Working Group on business and human rights led by its chair Ms Anita Ramasastry made the observations when they met the Attorney General Kihara Kariuki Monday morning when they paid him a courtesy call.
In his remarks, the government’s Chief legal Advisor Kihara Kariuki emphasized that human rights remained a core component of all businesses world-over.
“This is not a strange phenomenon but rather a practice that business enterprises have been implementing indirectly over a period of several years. The public must have faith in government to be able to address the issues that affect them including reviewing the minimum wages, especially in key areas such as in the extractive and agricultural sectors that form the backbone of the country.”
He further observed, “In the past businesses viewed people as tools of trade but this has changed with human rights obligations being respected critical components in human resources management within the enterprises.” He however challenged business owners to put in place systems that allowed regular interaction with employees as a way of strengthening institutions for the benefit of all.
The meeting with the Attorney General is the first of its official engagement in Kenya to assess efforts to prevent, mitigate and remedy adverse human rights impacts of business operations. The group will be in the country until 11 july 2018.
On her part, Ms Anita Ramasastry, chairperson of the UN Working Group stated, “We are impressed that Kenya has already developed the first National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights in Africa. This plan is aimed at strengthening the capacity of the State to protect against business-related human rights abuses and ensuring that companies respect human rights. We must work to bring change that’s beneficial to all people in the economic development of the country.”
Kenya is one of the fastest growing economies in sub-Saharan Africa, relying on sectors such as agriculture, small-scale consumer goods, tourism, services, transport, information technology, and a growing oil and mining sector. Many of the business establishments including Small Micro-Enterprises (SMEs) are now members of the UN Global Compact, a UN initiative aimed at encouraging business enterprises to adopt sustainable and socially responsible policies that articulate business and human rights.
The Working Group delegation will meet with the Judiciary tomorrow before visiting Turkana, Nakuru, Kiambu and Mombasa, to assess how the Government and businesses are implementing their respective human rights obligations and responsibilities under with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.
The Guiding Principles, unanimously endorsed by the UN Human Rights Council in 2011, offer clarity and guidance for governments and companies on how to prevent and address adverse human rights risks and ensure that victims of business-related human rights abuses have access to effective remedies.