“The corporate responsibility to respect human rights is a social responsibility over and above compliance with applicable laws.” -John Ruggie
“Human rights are not only violated by terrorism, repression or assassination but also by unfair economic structures that creates huge inequalities.” – Pope Francis
The 2nd International Conference on Business and Human Rights in Africa, with a theme, “Effective CSR as a Viable Option for Sustainable National Development”has been proposed to hold on November 21st and 22nd in Lagos this year.
Jointly organised by the International Network for Corporate Social Responsibility (INCSR) and De Bernards Consulting Ltd, the second International Conference on Business and Human Rights in Africa, is an opportunity for the countries of sub-Saharan Africa to avail themselves with the benefits that are aimed at hightening sustainable growth that is accompanied by social welfare and the environment.
According to Eustace Onuegbu, Executive Director of INCSR, the conference has “been designed to study and deal with the unprecedented impacts of sustainability on national growth, societal welfare and the environment” as well as facilitating “the elaboration of various frameworks with the goal of developing evolutionary sustainability practices.”
Of important note is that the November event would be a platform for business leaders, sustainability experts and human rights advocates to discuss the relationship between Sustainability and Economic Development. “It is a place to identify solutions that integrate sustainability principles into good governance and core business, a networking opportunity to build relationships with key partners and a means to gain reputational benefits from being involved,” Onuegbu said.
It further seeks to serve as an opportunity to assess the progress that has so far been made in Africa after the first conference and to look at prospective possibilities for a more sustainable future in the continent.
The slow performance of the economy during the tail-end of 2015, economists say, resulted in the economic data of sub-Saharan Africa also performing abysmally low in the first quarter of this year.
INCSR’s Executive Director posits that the latest GDP data show that the economy of the Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) region has continued to perform low. “Most of the countries in the region have been hit by multiple shocks – low commodity prices, tighter financial conditions and shortages of food due to adverse weather conditions in the southern parts of the continent.”
Giving individual country indices,Onuegbu quoted Nigeria’s GDP Growth Rate as averaging 0.30 percent from 2013 to 2016, adding, “LatestGross Domestic Product (GDP) in Nigeria contracted 13.70 percent in the first quarter of 2016 over the previous quarter. GDP Growth Rate in Nigeria averaged 0.30 percent from 2013 until 2016, reaching an all-time high of 9.19 percent in the third quarter of 2015 and a record low of -13.70 percent in the first quarter of 2016.”
Disturbingly, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) predicts that the Nigerian economy will even slump further with a similar situation to South Africa. Government officials have confirmed Nigeria’s economic recession. ”Technically, Nigeria is in recession but we should not go into definition; but what we are doing,” Nigeria’s Finance Minister, Kemi Adeosun told the Senate recently.
The declaration calls for the imprerativeness of the INCSR Conference, which concept note explains that “the economy swung to contraction in Q1 due to decrease in the mining and quarrying sector, which suffered from severe droughts. Q1’s GDP figure is raising concerns that the economy might be headed towards a recession this year as the outlook for the manufacturing and mining sectors remains low amid weak demand from China and low commodity prices.”
It noted that the slump in commodity prices had put severe strains on Angola’s economy as well as forced the government to seek for aid from IMF. “Thus, it has become imperative for the SSA countries, in particular the commodity exporting countries, to diversify their economies in order to reinvigorate growth.”
Onuegbu contends that bothgovernment and business play important roles in the sustainability of the society, impact families, communities and the environment, and that “the consequences of globalisation and the economic crisis, have repositioned economic activities towards more inclusive, competitive, sustainable, resource and energy efficient and environment friendly management.”
He therefore opined that “African businesses should adequately address the key objectives of competitive and sustainable management, integrating economic, social, and environmental elements and investigating the intrinsic link between the three key components.”
Onuegbu further contends that there was an urgent need for SSA to formulate a sustainability framework that would address the interactions and dependencies as well as tradeoffs in various focus areas. “The challenge that these adjustments present, calls for the alignment of corporate social responsibility (CSR) with strategic national growth plan to create a truly sustainable approach to national development in major African economies like Nigeria, South Africa and Kenya.”
The conference therefore is important; it is timely and it is well packaged because it places strong emphasis on national laws, regulatory powers, company policies and business strategies that would provide a viable option for sustainable development.
The two-day Sustainability Workshop will also showcase the innovative approaches that is being implemented by leading organisations and future leaders and research on a diverse range of issues facing governments and businesses in Africa. “We want to bring together representatives from various parts of the globe to share their experiences, challenges and ideas on the matter,” Onuegbu emphasised.
While focusing on economic issues; social issues (including the UN three – pillar framework) and environmental issues, the conference would thematically address a range of critically important issues and themes that relate to the intersection between government, business, and sustainable development.