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Agric. Minister unveils guidelines on monitoring business and human rights

              By Ibrahim Tarawallie 

concord times photos 16             Agriculture Minister, Dr. Sam Sesay unveiling the documents        

Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security yesterday unveiled guidelines on Monitoring Business and Human Rights in Sierra Leone, as well as the voluntary guidelines on Responsible Governance Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests.

The two documents, which were prepared by the Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone (HRC-SL) and the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), will ensure improvement in the governance of land, fisheries and forests with the overreaching goal of achieving food security for all, in addition to making sure that businesses address human rights issues appropriately when they occur.

In his short statement, Dr. Joseph Sam Sesay expressed government’s delight for the development of the two documents by FAO and HRC-SL to monitor and supervise large scale investment in the country. He disclosed that with support from FAO and the Federal Republic of Germany, a multi-stakeholder platform will be set up by January 2014 where human rights, as well as maximizing benefits in large scale agricultural investment, will be discussed.

Dr. Sesay urged the two institutions to create lots of awareness for people and businesses to understand clearly what is inside the two documents.

In her presentation on the guidelines on Monitoring Business and Human Rights in Sierra Leone, Commissioner Jamesina King of HRC-SL stated that business can promote human rights when they fulfill their corporate responsibility, and that economic and social rights should be fulfilled by businesses through employment, wealth creation and public-private partnership, among others.

She noted that with increasing large scale investment in the country, the document was prepared as a result of the upsurge in reported incidences of human rights abuses and complaints.

According to Madam King, the document was developed in collaboration with the Irish Human Rights Commission and Danish Institute of Human Rights with a view to monitor the operations of businesses and communities with regards their respect for human rights standards in line with statutory instruments.

“The guidelines are a tool to raise awareness around human rights and businesses as well as preventing related human rights abuses. It will also ensure full respect for human rights in the business context,” she said. “It is a monitoring toll that will be used by the Commission and other institutions to strengthen human rights compliance by government and businesses to promote human rights in the country.”

Also speaking, FAO Country Representative, Gabriel Rugalema, maintained that the voluntary guidelines on the Responsible Governance Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests are intended to contribute to the global and national efforts towards the eradication of hunger and poverty, based on the principles of sustainable development.

He opined that responsible governance of tenure of land, fisheries and forests is inextricably linked with the access to and management of other national resources, such as water and mineral resources.

Mr. Rugalema added that the guidelines closely follow the format of other FAO voluntary instruments that set out principles and internationally accepted standards for responsible practices, and are consistent with, and drawn on, international and regional instruments, including the Millennium Development Goals that address human rights and tenure rights.