By macharia Kamau
Kenya: Human rights impact assessments are emerging as important tools for companies expanding or starting out in the region especially in the emerging sectors of oil and gas mining.
Just as environmental impact assessments have gained currency and have become entrenched in law, human rights advocates note that in addition to guarding against human rights abuses, human rights impact assessments could mitigate future conflicts between companies and communities.
They said taking care of the rights of locals could also save resources that would be employed in solving future conflicts.
Joseph Kibugu, an Eastern Africa researcher for Business and Human Rights Resource Centre noted that if emerging sectors like oil, gas and minerals start on the right footing, they have the potential to have a major impact on the welfare of the communities as well as the country’s economy.
He also notes that the flipside could be true, where companies exploring and exploiting the new-found wealth could end up in protracted battles as well as instances of inter-community clashes.
“Companies have been a vehicle for realising human rights but there are also instances where they have been a threat to human rights,” he explained.
Kibugu said a firm starting out will most likely have issues with the communities living where they are undertaking a project.