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First regional forum on business and human rights in Africa held in Addis

The African Regional Forum on Business and Human Rights, convened by the United Nations Working Group on Business and Human Rights with the support of the African Union, The UN Economic Commission for Africa and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, bringing more than 250 participants from business enterprises, governments, civil society and national human rights institutions from across the continent was held in Addis Abeba on 16-18 September 2014.

Providing a multi-stakeholder regional platform for dialogue on the implementation of the guiding principles on business and human rights, the UN endorsed standards to define the respective duties and responsibilities of governments and business enterprises for preventing and addressing adverse human rights impacts arising from business activities. The forum offers “a unique opportunity to promote national and regional action plans on business and human rights and the scaling up of responsible business practice,” according to Michael K. Addo, who chairs the UN Working Group.

AU’s commissioner for Political Affairs, Aisha Abdulalhi says that in the race to attract foreign direct investment (FDI) human rights issues in the continent are often seen to be neglected. “We have to fundamentally break with this logic and ensure that business and human rights go hand in hand,” she says. Since FDI attraction is regarded as an essential tool in a country’s quick march towards economic growth, transnational corporations are all too often met with opportunities for greater control of the continent’s resources. Key investment sectors in this regard are the extractive industries, agriculture and services.

In the advancement of business and human rights agenda, National Action Plans (NAP) are identified to play a pivotal role.The regional forum is believed to feed the 2014 UN Forum on Business and Human Rights to be held in Geneva on 1-3 December this year.

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