Swedwatch supports East African partners to hold businesses accountable

ARTICLE | 16 December 2019

With training sessions on business, human rights and the environment, Swedwatch has supported East African partners working with communities affected by mining and agribusiness in their work to hold business actors accountable.

While welcome for their potential to create jobs, foreign investments in sectors such as mining and agribusiness often come with a high cost to the environment and local communities, local civil society organisations from a range of East African countries testified in two capacity building workshops co-arranged by Swedwatch and local partner organisations in Kenya in November.

The aim of the workshops was to provide participants with theoretical knowledge of corporate responsibility and with practical tools on how to monitor human rights risks linked to business operations in the East-African context. Many participants described the security risks, threats and attacks that they face when supporting communities affected by mining, energy and agribusiness investments.

“The process of research and investigation has many challenges, including company representatives attempting to bribe researchers and giving false reports to government officials,” said Gloria Mafole, a Tanzanian business and human rights lawyer.

To advocate for their rights, communities across East Africa need greater support, said Augustine Masiga from the community coalition Haki Madini in Kenya. However, this requires funding and training for research and documentation of human rights impacts.

Swedwatch’s capacity building workshops combined an overview of international frameworks governing business, environment and human rights with discussions on how to safely and effectively monitor and report on companies’ negative impacts as well as advocating for change. In total, 48 representatives from over 20 community-based organisations from Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Burundi, DRC, South Sudan and Zimbabwe participated. Representatives from Kenya’s National Commission on Human Rights were also present.

The workshop in Nanyuki, was co-organised with Impact, a Kenyan civil society organisation supporting indigenous peoples. The second workshop was held in Nairobi with FECCLAHA (Fellowship of Christian Councils and Churches in the Great Lakes and Horn of Africa), a regional partner of Swedwatch’s member organisation ACT Church of Sweden.