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Incorporate business and human rights into national investment legal frameworks, government told

NOTU Chairperson, Wilson Uwere (L) chats with SEATINI ED Jane Nalunga during the stakeholder engagement in Kampala on Oct.07.

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Uganda needs to incorporate guiding principles on business and human rights into the national investment regulatory frameworks to strike balance between the investor rights and the state, according to Jane Nalunga, the Executive Director at the Southern and Eastern African Trade Institute –SEATINI Uganda.

Nalunga, who was speaking during a stakeholder engagement in Kampala under the theme; “Harnessing Uganda’s investment laws, policies and agreements to prevent business related human rights violations,” said there are rampant human rights violations and environmental degradation mainly perpetuated by foreign investors.

“We are not saying that we don’t want investors, we really need them. But let us have a win-win situation. Let the population win, the workers win, the government win and the investor also win,” she said, adding that as private companies pursue profit maximization, they should attach human dignity to their activities.

Nalunga said their consultations and community engagements with casual laborers and community representatives in Kalangala, Kiryandongo, Mubende, and Buvuma where some of the large-scale investment schemes are based, unearthed numerous cases of human and environmental right violations in the communities perpetuated by corporations.

She said though there are global, regional and national Investment policies including the investment code 2019, African Union large scale investment Treaty, UN Guiding principles on Business and human rights in relation to investments, violations have persisted because of the gaps.

“These treaties which are best endeavors are not legally binding to the investors domestically hence leaving the human rights gap that is exploited by investors,” she added.

This development comes at the time the Ugandan government is looking for all possible means including tax exemptions and no minimum wage to attract investors.

Usher Wilson Uwere, the National Organisation of Trade Union (NOTU) chairperson said the human rights abuses have been much reported in the Chinese and Indian owned companies.

He said NOTU has now recruited labor officers in all the districts to check on the working conditions of the workers in various companies and organisations.

Apollo Onzoma, assistant commissioner, Industrial Relations in the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development said the government now has labour officers in 135 districts, municipalities and cities. “What we now need to do is enforcement. Everyone now needs to know their responsibilities,” he said.

Onzoma added that workers injured while on duty should be fully compensated in line with the workers compensation laws.

Moses Okwalinga, CEO Uganda Law Society said: “We need to review our investment regulatory framework and set standards that should be adhered to by investors to curb human rights violations.”

The stakeholder engagements was organised by SEATINI Uganda in partnership with the Both Ends and Third World Network Africa.

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