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Ghana’s Government Needs to Sign UN Treaty on Transnational Corporations: Church Official

The Panelists at the Media briefing on Securing Government of Ghana’s Support to the ongoing process of negotiating a UN Binding Treaty on Transnational Corporations and Human Rights.

The leadership of Caritas Ghana is urging the government of the West African nation to show commitment in safeguarding the rights of “affected communities” by signing the United Nations (UN) Binding Treaty for Transnational Corporations (TNCs) on Human Rights.

Speaking at a Press Briefing organized to generate media interest and lobby the Government to support the Treaty, the Executive Secretary of Caritas Ghana, Samuel Zan Akologo underscored the need for the government to support the legal document saying it paves the way for justice for victims, holding the Multinational Corporations to account.

“We seek to bring to the fore the need for the State to committedly sign on to the proposed UN Binding Treaty to give rights to affected communities to reclaim their sovereignty by re-affirming the hierarchical superiority of their human rights norms over trade and investment treaties, dismantle Transnational corporations over-arching power and stop the impunity which emanate from their activities,” Mr  Akologo said Wednesday, October 28.

He added, “This clarion call resonates strongly with Pope Francis’ Encyclical Laudato Si’ to safeguard the rights of individuals and communities and the preservation of our common home, the environment and planet.”

Organized by Caritas Ghana in collaboration with DKA Austria and Misereor Germany, the October 28 Press Briefing also sought to strengthen partnerships among church and non-church actors to put social pressure on international policymaking bodies to hold transnational corporations accountable for their investment policies and ensure access to justice and respect for human rights.

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The call by Caritas Ghana comes weeks after members of the Ghana Catholic Bishops’ Conference (GCBC) met with the country’s President and urged his government to support the Treaty as a way of making foreign companies operating in the West African country responsible and accountable.

The leadership of the Catholic Church in Africa is calling “for endorsement of the International Binding Treaty process to enhance corporate accountability,” the Bishops in Ghana told their country’s President during the September 4 meeting.

GCBC members also urged President Nana Akufo-Addo to ensure that the Multinational Corporations operating in the country “give us our due in taxes (and) respect our citizens and laws.”

During the October 28 Press Briefing, the Executive Secretary of Caritas Ghana said, “As a network of global campaigners resisting the land grabs, extractive mining, exploitative wages and environmental destruction of Transnational Corporations particularly in Africa, we would like to mobilize global support for the Binding Treaty.” 

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Mr. Akologo made reference to the October 24 to 31 sixth negotiation session for the Treaty saying, “It is imperative that civil society come together to express support for this process, and pressure their governments to ensure an active and constructive engagement aimed at strengthening the current draft of the treaty.”

Leaders of various faith-based organizations who attended the Press Briefing also expressed the desire to see the Treaty signed.

For the President of the International Alliance of Catholic Men (UNUM OMNES), Edward Aloysius Prah said, “The State of Ghana has good reason to support the process because examples abound in many places where human rights abuses have occurred with the establishment of businesses.”

“Many poor farmers have lost land and become landless, drinking water sources have been polluted and whole villages including ancestral groves relocated to make way for the establishment of businesses,” Mr. Prah lamented. 

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He added, “When the injustices on the people are done by corporations, often the promise is for a better life for the indigenes whose lands and other natural resources are taken over.”

However, the President of UNUM OMNES said, “In the end, the promise for a better life becomes illusory, driving the indigenes further and deeper into poverty.”

He called on the media and other organizations to support the treaty saying, “Let us not relent in our efforts to lobby our governments to sign the International Binding Treaty as the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) has been established in the country.”

“It is our duty as citizens and as Christians to promote the dignity of our people even in their desire to acquire the basic necessities of life,” Mr. Prah further said.

He continued, “When fully in force, the UN Binding Treaty can provide the means to ensure that businesses big and small that operate in countries live up to the responsibility of respecting the dignity and rights of citizens.”

“Let Ghana’s support for the Treaty be loud and clear to demonstrate our respect for our citizens and to send out a clear signal that human right abuses by Transnational Corporations will not be tolerated in any form or shape within our borders,” said Mr. Prah. 

On her part, the President of Faith in Ghana Alliance, Hajia Ayishetu Abdul-Kadiri urged policymakers to ensure compliance to regulations enacted to monitor the operations of TNCs in the nation saying, “policy decisions in such areas of interest are important.”

The Managing Editor of The Catholic Standard, Sir Benedict Assorow noted that the media has an important role to play by helping to disseminate information on the importance and benefits of the Treaty.

Sir Assorow expressed his appreciation to Caritas Ghana for involving the media in this advocacy to get the government to sign the Binding Treaty, and called on journalists to “do more research into the process to inform and educate Ghanaians about it.”