As the world observes the Human Rights Day, let us all be reminded of the inalienable rights which everyone is entitled to as a human being – regardless of race, colour, religion, sex, language, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.
This year’s Human Rights Day theme relates to the COVID-19 pandemic and focuses on the need to build back better by ensuring Human Rights are central to recovery efforts. The realisation of our common global goals will depend on our ability to create equal opportunities for all, while trying to address the failures exposed by the global coronavirus, and applying human rights standards to tackle entrenched, systematic, and intergenerational inequalities, exclusion and discrimination.
There is growing global and local consensus about the importance of upholding human rights in business practices particularly in the mining sector. The Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association emphasizes that there is need to have a mutual balance between mining companies and local communities when it comes to benefits derived from the mining activities .This is the essence of responsible investment and requires mining companies to be transparent and accountable to the communities in which they operate.
Although there are pockets of success at institutional and systemic levels with regard to change in practices and policies in business (mining) and human rights sector,within the realms of human rights and business practices in Zimbabwe, there is poor domestication and implementation of international frameworks such as the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.
It must also be noted that transparency and accountability issues remain a huge challenge as the Government and mining companies are not willing to disclose the mining contracts. This has a huge consequence on corporate accountability and social responsibility to the communities in which these companies operate.
As we commemorate the Human Rights Day, we encourage Zimbabwe to adopt standards for preventing and addressing the risk of adverse impacts on human rights linked to business operations such as the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and be part of the organisations that promote human rights including the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development(OECD), adopt ISO 26000 which outlines international recommendations for making organisations more socially responsible.ISO 26000 is a set of guidelines for developing a long-term corporate social responsibility (CSR) strategy and is suited for any type of sector, mining included. ISO 26000 guidelines address everything from working practices,environmental policies, sustainable development, and the communities that are impacted by a business’s activities. In practice ISO 26000 is essentially a good tool to enable compliance with the UN Guidelines on Business and Human Rights and the OECD Guidelines.
As we observe the Day, we underscore that,local communities in which mining activities take place must enjoy their rights, including rights over their land, territories and natural resources. This means that before any mining activities takes place, free and informed consent prior to the authorization or commencement of any mining project should be sought and obtained. Free prior and informed consent (FPIC) has to be obtained in a way that is in accordance with the indigenous peoples’ customary laws and practices.
Human Rights must be at the centre of the post COVID-19. We must also ensure that human rights defenders are protected so that they can work in a safe environment, free from attacks. As highlighted by the United Nations,we are all in this together. The COVID-19 crisis has been fuelled by deepening poverty, rising inequalities, structural and entrenched discrimination and other gaps in human rights protection. Only measures to close these gaps and advance human rights can ensure we fully recover and build back a world that is better, more resilient, just, and sustainable.
For Further Information, Please Contact:
Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association, 26B Seke Road, Hatfield,Harare,Zimbabwe