Article: ZELA hosts workshop on Corporate Social Responsibility & Business and Human Rights

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This is an article sumarising ZELA's workshop and key discussions that transpired during a workshop on Corporate Social Responsibility & Business & Human Rights

This is an article sumarising ZELA's workshop and key discussions that transpired during a workshop on Corporate Social Responsibility & Business & Human Rights

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  • 1. Article: For Immediate Circulation ZELA HOSTS WORKSHOP ON CORPORATE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY AND BUSINESS AND HUMAN RIGHTS 3 April 2014 The Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (ZELA) hosted 28 small-scale miners, community members, media, and representatives of the Environmental Management Agency (EMA) as well as members of civil society and labor unions in a one-day workshop on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and Business and Human Rights in Mutare on the 31st of March 2014. The overall objective of the workshop   as   shared   by   ZELA’s   Legal   Officer   Veronica Zano, was to enable business, civil society organisations and communities to dialogue on the concept of CSR and business and human rights. CSR has gained prominence worldwide in the last 15 years as a result of increased globalization, greater access to information, and growing social, environmental and consumer expectations regarding business. It is defined as the continuing commitment by business to behave ethically and contribute to economic development while improving the quality of life of the workforce and their families as well as the local community where they are operating and society at large. During the workshop, most of the community members expressed displeasure in the way that mining companies where operating in their areas with most citing that they take complete disregard of communities. “We  feel  that  companies  are  giving  us  a  raw  deal  as  they  are  not  investing   enough   towards   the   communities   that   they   operate   in”, said Mr Tagwirei a representative of the Mutoko North Community Development Trust. Unfortunately, the large-scale mining companies were not available to share their perspective although ZELA had made frantic efforts to invite them to be part of this gathering. Mutuso Dhliwayo facilitating a discussion on business and human rights
  • 2. Mutuso Dhliwayo the ZELA Director lamented the absence of mining companies from this meeting. He noted “As   civil   society   we   have   since   changed our confrontational approach and currently we are creating such platforms for engagement not blame shifting because we understand that only through  engagements  we  are  able  to  come  up  with  progressive  resolutions”   “We   just   hope   that   the   mining   companies   will   increasingly open up and be more willing to participate in such platforms so that there is increased conversation between them, the community and civil society as a way of strengthening accountability, transparency and their understanding of community issues”  continued  Dhliwayo. The small mining companies who were represented during the workshop spoke mainly on the challenges they are currently facing in investing in the mining sector where they operate in the same environment with big multi- national companies that have capital muscle to do more CSR initiatives unlike them. They felt that government should do more to support the indigenisation drive by supporting access to resources to invest in mining in the same manner that farmers have been assisted in accessing resources. Mr Bako a small-scale miner enquired, “what  is  the  cost  of  promoting  these business and human rights to indigenous mining companies and how can we (small scale miners) match the same standard that is expected from the big mining companies?” Dhliwayo responded to this by outlining that it is imperative to ensure the application of the same business and human rights practices across the board regardless of the size of operations. Government as the overall duty bearer should lead and demonstrate best practice and even go on to support indigenous small-scale miners to better uphold these business and human rights practices. The concept of Business and Human Rights is premised on the notion that business enterprises should respect human rights both in practice and through policy commitments. Business and human rights due diligence requires businesses to identify, mitigate and prevent adverse impacts of their business related activities on human rights. The Business and Human Rights concept has been given impetus by the United Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, which was adopted by the United Nations Human Rights Council in 2011. The   UNGPs   (UNGPs)   operationalized   the   “Respect,   Protect   and   Remedy”   Framework which was developed by Professor John Ruggie the former Special Representative of the UN Secretary General. One way which businesses can fulfill the respect principle is by carrying out human rights due diligence to assess and address actual and potential human rights impact and have processes that enable remediation. The workshop indicated how mining activities have a potential to contribute to the socio-economic growth of the country. However, despite the obvious potential benefits of mining activities, the community members adjacent to
  • 3. mining operations expressed concern on how mining companies are currently violating their rights. Speaking during the workshop Mrs Jena one of the community members affected   by   mining   operations   in   the   Save   region   said   that   “It   breaks   our   hearts to see people from your own communities depositing raw sewage in the Save river which they even know is our source of livelihoods simply because they are  following  instructions  of  their  employees  and  don’t  want  to   risk loosing their jobs”.    Although pollution in the Save river has significantly reduced it is still happening and it is posing a huge risk on the social and economic welfare of the communities. Continuing with the discussion, Dhliwayo reiterated that the objective of the UNGPs is not to blame any stakeholder but for them to come together to collectively find solutions to problems associated with mining activities. The focus is on moving from conflict to resolution between mining companies, communities and CSOs. In one of the case stories shared during the workshop, councilor Vuto from Zvishavane expressed the positives that Murowa Diamonds have brought to the community as a result of the continued engagements they have had in priority setting through clearly defining their ward plans. In what is surely a good practice, Murowa Diamonds has managed to create platforms for community engagement by offering the community a community liaison department whose role is to identify how to redress community challenges that are precipitated by their operations. The community initiatives that have been supported by Murowa span from the building of schools and supporting them with books, compensation on relocated families in an asset to asset arrangement where people would have improved assets than what they had before relocation, supporting local business initiatives such as companies that provide clothing for the mine, supporting health facilities and medicines and empowering local communities to start and manage different small to medium enterprises. All the CSR work of the mine is documented  in  a  newsletter  called  “Vangova   news”  which  is  jointly  developed  with  the  community.  This  is  one  good  way  of   ensuring accountability and transparency of CSR initiatives that the company is supporting. Although some mining companies failed to participate, this workshop was designed to offer an opportunity for communities from mining areas, CSOs and companies to engage and understand how business and human rights and corporate social responsibility can help ensure that there is economically, socially and environmentally sustainable development. A call was made that stakeholders should assist companies in putting in place publicly accessible grievance redress mechanisms that demonstrate that they are aware of, prevent and mitigate human rights violations. Councilor Vuto explaining some of the initiatives by Murowa Diamonds
  • 4. Speaking on Labour   Rights   In   Zimbabwe’s   Mining   Sector, Mr Sunguro emphaised   on   the   need   for   people   to   form   and   maintain   active   workers’   unions that are not afraid to approach the mining companies and adress the pertinent issues that ensure that rights of workers and the community at large are observed. He went on to cite examples of how as Zimbabawe Diamond Allied   Workers’   Union   (ZIDAWU they have engaged some mines who then went on to review the policies and practices to ensure that they observe better labour practices for their workers. As a way forward ZELA agreed to compile a statement from the workshop that they will share with mining companies and policy makers for their considerations and start advocacy that is informed by the call of community members for more legislation on CSR so that it does not remain a purely act of   “charity”   by   mining   companies   whilst   at   the   same   time   develop   better   practices of business and human rights that are influenced by the UNGPs by contextualizing them to Zimbabwe and ensure that they become binding. Inserted by No. 26B Seke Road
 Prospect, Hatfield, Harare;