MOJAGD, ActionAid Ghana hold National Forum on UN Legally Binding Treaty on Business and Human Rights

By James Amoh Junior

Accra, May 18, GNA – The Ministry of Justice and Attorney General’s Department (MOJAGD) and ActionAid Ghana have held a national stakeholders forum on the United Nations Legally Binding Treaty on Business and Human Rights (UN LBI).

The Treaty, among others, is to advance the fundamental principles of human rights within the context of business practices towards fostering a more just and equitable society.

Following an intersessional meeting held in Accra in 2023, the Office of the Attorney General and Ministry of Justice is preparing to attend the 10th session in October 2024 to discuss further the position of the African region on the UN LBI.

As the lead institution in the negotiation of the Legally Binding Instrument on Business and Human Rights (LBI) for Ghana and the African state, the MOJAGD held the national forum to solicit the views of key stakeholders.

The views elicited would be collated to form Ghana’s opinion in the upcoming meeting to negotiate the text of the treaty.

In June 2014, the UN Human Rights Council took steps to elaborate an international legally binding instrument to regulate the activities of transnational corporations and other business enterprises.

Mr Alfred Tuah-Yeboah, Deputy Attorney General and Deputy Minister of Justice, speaking at the opening of the national forum, said the meeting was particularly relevant as Ghana considered the draft legally binding treaty and made inputs to it bearing in mind the peculiar circumstances of Ghana and its challenges.

Pertinent among them, he said, was the application of the future Treaty and that for the Treaty to make any meaningful impact, there needed to be an insistence in line with Resolution 26/9 to regulate the activities of transnational corporations and other business enterprises which were transnational.

“It should also cover all activities along the value chain of these businesses. This must of necessity include all companies that contribute to the transnational corporations’ operations, as well as contractors, subcontractors, and suppliers of goods and digital and non-digital services with which the parent company has formal or informal business relations.

The Deputy Attorney General said investors, shareholders, banks, pension funds, and other financiers of transnational corporations could also be held responsible for human rights violations committed by the transnational corporations they financially supported.

Mr Tuah-Yeboah said it was important, thus, to consider that the Treaty must establish clear and direct obligations of transnational corporations to uphold human rights and must establish strong and effective provisions to guarantee the rights of those affected by activities of transnational corporations.

“We must not forget that the right to a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment is a human right and that environmental crimes are intrinsically connected to human rights violations,” he said.

He further stated that transnational corporations were the biggest contributors to environmental pollution and the destruction of biodiversity, harming both people and the ecosystem and that all that needed to be protected under the Treaty.

The Treaty, the Deputy Minister of Justice said, must also prevent corporate capture, and that through corporate lobbyists and associations, transnational corporations had been given privileged access to multilateral decision-making spaces, thus influencing outcomes.

“The rights of people are thereby sacrificed on the altar of greedy commercialization. The Treaty must address this injustice,” he reiterated.

Mr Tuah-Yeboah said the Treaty must also include provisions on criminal, civil, and administrative liability and that references to domestic law being superior to the draft Treaty must be eliminated in order not to render the Treaty ineffective.

Mr Joseph Whittal, Commissioner of the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ), said the development of a legally binding treaty (LBI) on BHR was a good move which the Commission strongly supported.

According to him, a binding treaty would challenge all State parties to do everything possible to protect BHR and ensure compliance by businesses. With that, he said a binding treaty will come with reporting obligations and possible sanctions.

The CHRAJ Commissioner said it was important that Ghana took a national position on some of the provisions and pushed it forcefully, and that the national stakeholders should facilitate consensus on a national position on the draft Convention.

Mr John Nkow, Country Director, ActionAid Ghana, said the national stakeholder’s forum held particular significance for ActionAid, which advocates for the rights of marginalized communities and vulnerable populations, especially women and children.

For ActionAid, he said, the need for a legally binding treaty on business and human rights was not merely a matter of policy but a moral imperative.

“Too often, we have witnessed first-hand the devastating impact of corporate activities on the lives and livelihoods of those least able to defend themselves. From forced evictions and environmental degradation to labour exploitation and land grabs, the violations are manifold and egregious.”

In its recent climate change campaign #FixTheFinance, ActionAid is calling on financial institutions to invest more in agroecology to save the environment and mitigate the effects of climate change rather than fossil fuel explorations by transnational corporations.

In that context, the Country Director said, the textual review of the draft treaty assumed paramount importance.

He urged the stakeholders to scrutinise the proposed language, identify potential gaps or loopholes, and advocate for amendments that strengthen protections for human rights, particularly women’s rights, and enhance mechanisms for accountability.

“Only through a robust and comprehensive review can we ensure that the final treaty reflects the aspirations and demands of those most affected by corporate misconduct,” he advocated.

“The rights of people are thereby sacrificed on the altar of greedy commercialization. The Treaty must address this injustice,” he reiterated.