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Human Rights Commission, FAO partner on food security and business

Human Rights Commission, FAO partner on food security and business

The Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone in collaboration with the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization of Sierra Leone has jointly launched the Business and Human Rights Monitoring tool and Voluntary Guidelines of responsible governance of Land Tenure, Fisheries and Forest. The all important ceremony was held at the Bintumani Hotel Conference Hall in Freetown on Monday 16th December 2013.   (Photo: Commissioner Jamesina King)

Making a presentation on Monitoring Business and Human Rights in Sierra Leone document, Commissioner Jamesina King of the Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone said the Guidelines build on the Human Rights Compliance Assessment (HRCA) tool of the Danish Institute for Human Rights (DIHR). “The HRCA is a unique tool designed by DIHR to help companies identify the requirements of respect for human rights across the different aspects of their operations,” she said, and added that while international law does not generally impose direct obligations on non-state actors, such as businesses, the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs) have recently clarified the responsibilities that business actors have to respect human rights that derive from international human rights standards – alongside the duties borne by government and other public authorities to protect and remedy human rights in a business context.

“By referring to these indicators, it is therefore possible to assess to what extent a particular business is meeting its corporate responsibility to respect human rights – and to identify what steps, specifically, a business might need to take to close the gap between its current performance and full respect for human rights,” says Commissioner King.

The Guidelines, she said provide a basis for HRCSL to undertake activities to fulfill its mandate to protect and promote human rights in Sierra Leone, including through monitoring and investigations. She pointed out that they should also provide a valuable common framework and benchmark for other actors – including businesses themselves, government bodies, CSOs, and communities – in assessing and engaging in dialogue regarding business respect for human rights, and working towards improvements.

The Guidelines, Madam King said are organized into five sections. Each section addresses an area of business activity, as follows: Section 1: Employment practices, Section 2: Environment and communities, Section 3: Security, Section 4: Legal and government affairs, and Section 5: Contractors and supply chain.

FAO’s Representative Gabriel Rugalema said the purpose of the voluntary guidelines is to serve as a reference and to provide guidance to improve the governance of tenure of land, fisheries and forests with the overall goal of achieving food security for all and to support the progressive realization of the right to adequate food in the context of national food security. The guidelines, he said intends to contribute to the global and national efforts towards the eradication of poverty, based on the principles of sustainable development and with recognition of the centrality of land to development by promoting secure tenure rights and equitable access to land, fisheries and forests. He promised the documents will be taken across the country so as to achieve its goal.

The Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security pointed out that the whole project will take the holistic approach of the country’s preparedness to achieve food security. Dr. Joseph Sam Sesay advised the organizers of the event to ensure that the relevant Government Agencies be supported and equipped to ensure proper forest monitoring and management. Agriculture, he said serves as a backbone to the country’s economy, as it contributes 46% of GDP and employs majority of the population. He called for the need to promote agricultural sector governance. He commended the imitative of having the documents launched, as it will be instrumental in institutionalizing the opportunities provided in the agriculture sector.

Presentations were made by various institutions like UNDP and FAO; whilst statement was made by a representative of Irish Embassy.

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