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Catholic Bishops in Kenya Urge Government to Support UN Treaty on Business, Human Rights

Logo of the United Nations (UN). Credit: UN

Catholic Bishops in Kenya are calling on the government of the East African nation to fully support the revised draft of the United Nations (UN) Binding Treaty on Business and Human Rights at the ongoing negotiations in Geneva, Switzerland.

If adopted, the Binding Treaty on Business and Human Rights is expected to strengthen legal aid and international cooperation to prevent human rights violations in business operations, particularly by Transnational Companies (TNCs). 

“We reiterate our commitment to the UN Binding Treaty on Business and Human rights and urge the Kenyan Government to fully support the third revised draft in order to protect the future generation from Corporate impunity and Environmental degradation,” members of the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops (KCCB) say in a statement shared with ACI Africa. 

The Catholic Bishops also call on the Kenyan government to “engage actively” in the negotiations of the treaty at the four-day meeting that is expected to conclude October 29. 

In their Sunday, October 24 statement signed by KCCB Chairman for the Commission for the Promotion of Integral Human Development, Bishop John Oballa Owaa, the Catholic Church leaders say the proposed treaty promotes the good of all people. 

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“This proposed treaty that seeks to regulate in international human rights law the activities of Transnational corporations and other business enterprises is for the common good and will enhance accountability of Transnational Companies,” they say. 

They explain that while TNCs are capable of promoting a country’s economic growth and generate more revenue, experience shows that the multinationals can violate human rights and cause great harm to the environment. 

“The existence of International legal gap together with Transnational complex structure and operations across multiple jurisdictions has led to increase in human right abuses such as land grabbing, forced displacement, inadequate compensation, tax evasions, child labor, human trafficking and environmental degradation,” they say in the three-page statement.

The impact of the violations, KCCB members say, affects “the poor who are already suffering from COVID-19 economic effects.” 

"The Church as the conscience of society driven by the principle of preferential treatment for the poor and common good will always stand and speak for the voiceless of the society," they say. 

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They add, "The Church as a social institution and its adherents in their individual capacity as members of the society, have a social and moral responsibility to be involved in environmental conservation." 

"The way the Church cares for these natural resources is a measure of its stewardship and respect to the Creator," Catholic Bishops in Kenya further say.

Pope Francis reminds every one of his or her personal responsibility to care for creation, they say, and explain, "This is one of the reasons why the Catholic Church in Kenya has been actively involved in the United Nations Binding Treaty considering the environmental impact of Transnational Companies."

In the statement, Catholic Bishops in Kenya call upon Kenyan legislators to consider developing domestic laws that will hold TNCs accountable for environmental and human rights abuses. 

They also call on law makers "to become members of the Global Inter-Parliamentary Network that supports the UN Binding Treaty process by signing the declaration at www.bindingtreaty.org." 

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KCCB members further call upon Kenyans to express themselves whenever their rights are violated by corporations. 

"We call upon Kenyans and people of good will to always remember that they have the Right to Say No whenever their human rights and healthy environment is abused by transnational companies," say the Catholic Bishops in Kenya. 

Last month, KCCB members called on Members of Parliament in the country to lobby the government to actively participate in the UN Binding Treaty negotiations.

“We humbly request the Departmental Committee of Environment and Natural Resource to lobby the Kenya Government and urge them to actively participate in 2021 United Nations Binding Treaty deliberations,” KCCB members say in their statement presented by Bishop Oballa at the September 8 - 9 training organized by KCCB Liaison Desk in Kenya's Nakuru Diocese.