Use rights-based approach to investment to protect local communities

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Advocates have called for the adoption of a rights-based approach within the framework of investment activities in Uganda in order to ensure respect for the human rights of local communities.

Often times many investors especially foreign exclude or sideline human rights in their work leading to abuses and suffering of the local communities.

According to Andrew Byaruhanga the executive director, Resource Rights Africa many investments abuse people’s rights through forced displacement from their land, work without pay, others are poorly paid, work for long hours while other work under poor health conditions among others.

“These rights are often violated and this negatively affects the communities. The environment is being degraded, locals are being denied access to natural resources by some companies which as a country we need to say no,” Byaruhanga said.

At least 300 children are illegally working in one of the cement quarries in Karamoja.

He revealed that some companies have degraded the environment, cut down forests and green vegetation which has escalated the effects of climate change.

“Companies have a responsibility to respect human rights and the government needs to ensure investment free from human rights abuses,” Byaruhanga said.

Human rights are not a new concern for investors who are not only expected to meet their responsibilities but may face reputational, legal or other consequences if they do not.

Ugandans often find themselves being displaced and losing access to their customary land and other natural resources as they are evicted from the land to make way for investment activities.

The Minister of State for Labour, Employment and Industrial Relations Charles Okello Engola said, the government is committed to improving the state of business and human rights in Uganda.

“Government of Uganda attaches great importance to the protection of human rights. We have offered an enabling environment for investment and we are committed to ensuring the rights of our people are protected,” Engola said.

He acknowledged the dangers of human rights abuses like pollution, displacement of communities, adulteration of commodities, and use of child labour among others.

“These undermine the commitment of the government to protect and fulfil human rights. We developed the National Action plan on Business and human rights to respond to these abuses,” Engola said.

He revealed that Uganda recently became the 2nd country after Kenya to launch the National action plan on business and human rights.

The move is meant to address the gaps in the business that range from labour exploitation, forced labour, little pay for workers among others.

According to the Ministry of Gender which is to implement this action this project is to cost sh252bn between 2021-26.

“We are working towards narrowing the overall gaps that separate peoples as well as people from their rights,” Engola said.

Ole Dahl Rasmussen, the counsellor, Team Leader Growth Team at the Danish Embassy in Kampala despite the creation of jobs by the businesses, there is a concern of human rights abuse.

“People are working for long hours and poorly paid, they are working in poor health conditions. Business and respect of human rights must move together for better gains,” Rasmussen said.

He revealed that if human rights are not respected, many investments might turn out as a curse to Uganda.

Dr Roswitha Kremser, the head of the coordination office for Development Cooperation at the Austrian embassy called for guarding of the rights and the environment.

“The justice system and the Uganda Human Rights Commission need to be equipped to promote the protection of these rights,” Kremser said.

The use of human rights approaches in the context of development-related activities appears to be the most appropriate means to observe respect for and the protection of people’s rights as states are required to adhere to human rights norms and standards.

Story from Bukedde website

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