The following is the third in a series of four reports exploring business and human rights issues in Uganda’s oil sector. This series is a collaboration between IPIS vzw and ActionAid Uganda.
The 2011 UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights operationalise the 2008 Protect, Respect and Remedy Framework. In accordance herewith, this third report assesses the duty of businesses to respect human rights. A particular focus is maintained upon the three multinational oil companies operating in Uganda’s oil sector – CNOOC, Tullow, and Total. Yet, a number of other active companies in Uganda’s oil sector are equally assessed for how they are demonstrating their commitment to do no harm, sometimes in reference to industry best practice.
The foundations of the Guiding Principles are introduced – primarily, that businesses have a duty to respect human rights, and what this duty means in practice. This includes analysis of which human rights are relevant, and how different contexts and industry sectors affect a business’ sphere of influence, and therefore level of responsibility.
Following this, the practicalities of operationalising the Guiding Principles are discussed. Firstly, businesses are expected to express their commitment to the Guiding Principles through a statement of policy that meets certain benchmarks. Secondly, businesses should carry out human rights due diligence, in order to identify, prevent, mitigate and account for how they address actual and potential adverse human rights impacts. This should start with a human rights impact assessment. The findings of the assessment should then be integrated into relevant internal functions and processes, and the business should take appropriate action. This progress should be tracked. Further, businesses should externally communicate how they are addressing human rights impacts. Lastly, businesses should take concrete steps to enable remediation when wrongs do occur, through adopting their own grievance mechanisms at the operational level, and coordinating with other State and non-State mechanisms.
These expectations are all discussed in the context of the presence of the main players in Uganda’s oil industry – Tullow, Total and CNOOC, in addition to other private actors – in order to note where best practice is being fulfilled, and where gaps are present. This is aimed at offering constructive advice to companies on how they can ensure a positive relationship between business and human rights in Uganda’s oil sector.
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