Zimbabwe: ICJ convened 2-day workshop on Business and Human Rights for East and Southern African lawyers

The workshop took place from 22-24 June in Victoria Falls and had a special focus on children’s rights as a particularly vulnerable group.

Its primary objective was to create a pool of jurists and activists with the knowledge and ability to undertake strategic litigation before national or regional courts in the interest of victims of human rights abuse by business enterprises in the Southern/Eastern Africa region.

To this end the meeting brought together legal practitioners and Human Rights Defenders involved in human rights legal accountability of business enterprises.

This workshop gathered together a selected group of human rights advocates from Malawi, Zambia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania working on cases relating to business’ human rights abuse.

In East and Southern African countries mining represents a significant part of the national economies and annual GDP.

Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, South Africa, Botswana and Mozambique have seen the inflowing investments grow in recent years, but it is not clear that this trend has meant improvements in the realization of human rights, especially economic and social rights.

Child labour is endemic, and its occurrence in tobacco plantations subject children to additional hazards to their health and wellbeing.

Mining and oil exploration creates problems to local communities who are not properly consulted or benefit from the activity and usually bear the brunt of environmental degradation and pollution associated with those extractive industries.

Business enterprises are in many instances complicit with State’s violations of human rights.

The meeting also sought to provide legal and other tools to community representatives and litigators who want to start strategic litigation in the public interest.

This flows from the realisation that effective remedy and reparation for victims of business human rights abuses, especially in a transnational context, remains elusive as ever and confronts a series of legal and procedural obstacles.

Access to effective remedy and justice is a priority objective in the context of work relating to the human rights responsibilities of business enterprises.

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