AfCFTA implementation must align with human rights — Vice-President Bawumia
The Vice-President, Alhaji Dr Mahamudu Bawumia, has said the African Continental Free Trade and Area (AfCFTA) must be implemented using a human rights-based approach.
He has, to this end, asked that as the continent vigorously pursued the AfCFTA agenda, it must be mindful of its businesses and human rights obligations.
"Human rights due diligence must be at the centre of the business pursuit and where human rights are likely to be violated, we must put pragmatic and workable mitigative measures in place to address them," he said.
Dr Bawumia said this at the opening of the 14th Biennial Conference of the Network of African National Human Rights Institutions (NANHRI) in Accra yesterday.
NANHRI is the national human rights institutions in Africa with 46 members currently.
The conference, held biennially, is pursuant to Article 56 of the NANHRI constitution,
It is a converging point for all the NANHRI member states and was attended by key stakeholders and partners in the protection and promotion of human rights in Africa.
Ghana is hosting this year’s conference scheduled for October 18 to 20, on the theme: “Nurturing responsible business conduct and respect for human rights in Africa.”
The opening ceremony attracted a host of dignitaries, with remarks from the Chairperson of the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions (GANHRI), Maryam Abdullah Al Attyah; the African Union Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security, Bankole Adeoye and the High Commissioner, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), United Nations, Volker Turk.
Realisation of AfCFTA Vision
While acknowledging the fact that exercising rights to development was one way of doing business, Dr Bawumia asked that businesses are done in a manner that they do not destroy the collective future and the future of generations to come, hence the need to nurture responsible business conduct, which must have as its fulcrum, the respect for human rights.
He said African countries must do everything possible to ensure the realisation of the vision and objective of AfCFTA as the world’s largest trade area.
Quoting a World Bank projection, the Vice-Present said AfCFTA would lift 13 million people out of extreme poverty and significantly increase the income of some 68 million people who were slightly above the poverty line.
“The International Monetary Fund also projects that AfCFTA will increase Africa’s overall rank on the global competitiveness index as its goods and labour markets will be quickly expanded.
The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa has also predicted that by the year 2040, the implementation of the AfCFTA will raise intra Africa trade from 15 to 25 per cent.
These are very significant and laudable projections and we must all play our respective roles to bring it to fruition,” he said.
As national human rights institutions, NANHRI was entreated by the Vice-President to continue to monitor business operations and investigate allegations of abuses and also ensure that victims got the needed remedies.
He said for violations that did not get reported but came to their attention through their monitoring and engagement, they must take all the necessary steps available to address them legally and in line with the Paris Principle to see to it that they were addressed.
Dr Bawumia also called on governments in Africa to invest more in renewable energy and for corporations to increase their business activities in that area.
Additionally, he called for attention to be paid to issues of sustainable agriculture and forest management, pointing out that the use of natural resources, stopping massive deforestation as well as making agriculture greener and more efficient must be better encouraged.
Ghana’s action plan
The Commissioner of the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ), Joseph Whittal, disclosed that Ghana would soon join Kenya, Uganda and Nigeria in having a National Action Plan on business and human rights to deal with all issues in the business and human rights environment.
“Business and human rights are major issues making headlines globally and on the African continent; they have become even more pressing.
As national human rights institutions, we have little choice but to undertake our core responsibility of ensuring that states protect human rights, businesses respect human rights and there are accessible mechanisms and institutions in ensuring that victims of business and human rights violations get justice.
This is our avowed responsibility under the Paris Principle for ensuring that this happens,” Mr Whittal, who is also the incoming Chairperson of NANHRI, said.
Human rights key
The outgoing Chairperson of NANHRI, Dr Hilarious Mugwadi, said human rights were key to the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals and added that, not only were they for those in positions of influence, but for every member of society since human rights were for all.