, 05 November, 2020 / 7:45 PM
Catholic Bishops in Kenya have called on the government to support the second revised draft of the UN Treaty on Transnational Corporations (TNCs) and Human Rights, which seeks to prevent the occurrence of human rights abuses in the context of business activities.
“We reiterate our 2019 commitment to the binding treaty on business and human rights and urge the Kenyan Government to fully support the second revised draft to secure the aspirations of the community,” members of the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops (KCCB) say in their Wednesday, November 4 collective statement shared with ACI Africa.
In making their case, the Bishops acknowledge that with a Fourth Industrial Revolution “firmly underway,” TNCs will continue conducting their businesses globally thus the “urgent need to have a mechanism in place to ensure their activities promotes integral human development anchored on respect (for) human rights.”
Amid the industrial revolution, KCCB members say, “2020 through to 2030 is the 'Decade of Action' during which No One Should Be Left Behind in ensuring Transnational Companies and other business enterprises respect human rights for the common good of the society.”
The second revised draft of the UN Treaty on Transnational Corporations (TNCs) and Human Rights is a project of the UN Human Rights Council that aims at developing an international legally binding instrument to regulate TNCs and other companies with respect to human rights.
The draft was discussed during the sixth session of the UN Intergovernmental Working Group (OEIGWG) on transnational corporations and other business enterprises with respect to human rights that was held October 26-30 at the UN headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland.
“There is progress and more awareness in regards to the Treaty as compared to last year when we forwarded our submission,” Catholic Bishops in Kenya say in the statement signed by the Chairman of KCCB’s Catholic Justice and Peace Commission (CJPC), Bishop John Oballa Owaa.
They highlight various climate change effects bedeviling the East African nation such as landslides, floods and sometimes-extreme droughts, which they attribute to some TNCs activities that “disregard environmental conservation while transacting their businesses.”
“Local authorities, regional and global social movements ought to work in concert towards effectively addressing climate change whose impacts undermine human rights especially of the poor,” KCCB members say in their four-page statement.
They bemoan what they term the capture of public and state interests by the elite through corporate interests, a tendency they say “should be condemned since it erodes the much-desired fruits of Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) from Transnational Companies (TNCs).”
For the impact of foreign investments to be felt locally, "openness, transparency and right to information be encouraged at all levels," the Prelates recommend in the November 4 statement.
They acknowledge that some TNCs have in the past colluded with senior actors in government while extracting natural resources from communities in disregard to environmental conservation, and note that as good stewards, TNCs “have a responsibility to respond and work with all stakeholders to remedy the vagaries that the market expose most vulnerable members of the society.”
To avoid exploitation of the vulnerable people, KCCB members “strongly oppose the unending land grabs and displacement of communities without adequate compensation.”
They also call on the national government to “ensure harmonization of laws that govern land management such as community land in order to safeguard the interest of the poor and the marginalized.”
They also recommend that the contracts of TNCs be made public and that companies with a history of human rights violation in other African nations be barred from transacting business in Kenya.
“Corporations and other businesses including government entities have a central responsibility to ensure that communities’ interests are prioritized, and free prior and informed consent principle is entrenched in the binding treaty,” KCCB members say in their November 4 statement.
Making reference to the prioritization of communities’ interests by corporations, they add, “This will secure communities interests and protect them from manipulation and incitement that leads to conflicts within the community.”
In calling for responsible conduct of TNCs, the members of KCCB make reference to Pope Francis’ latest Encyclical “Fratelli tutti,” in which they say the Holy Father “has just reminded us about being essential and useful to each other through social friendship, partnership, fraternity and brotherhood.”
Achieving the Holy Father’s call is possible “by means of breaking the bonds of servitude in the 21st Century and working towards uplifting the quality of human dignity in all its dimensions,” they say.
“Driven by the responsibility for pastoral duty and care for the poor towards realizing the common good, we will continue working with the Government of Kenya to ensure Transnational Companies are held accountable while transacting their businesses,” Catholic Bishops in Kenya say in their November 4 statement shared with ACI Africa.
KCCB members’ call on the Kenyan government to support the revised UN treaty on TNCs follows a similar call to the government of Ghana where the leadership of Caritas Ghana argued that supporting the treaty "paves the way for justice for victims, holding the Multinational Corporations to account."
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ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.
Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa