The Working Group on Extractive Industries, Environment and Human Rights Violations in Africa (WGEI or the Working Group) of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the Commission), undertook an Advocacy Visit to the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, from 16 to 17 December 2019.
The objectives of the Visit included: raising awareness about the mandate of the Commission in general, with a particular focus on the Working Group; sensitising relevant stakeholders on human rights, extractive industries, and the environment; encouraging the use of theState Reporting Guidelines and Principles on Articles 21 and 24 of the African Charter relating to Extractive Industries and the Environment (Reporting Guidelines and Principles); and engaging with the Ministry of Mining and Petroleum in the preparation of its ten-year Mineral and Petroleum Policy to ensure its compliance with the provisions of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.
Honourable Commissioner Solomon Ayele Dersso, Chairperson of the Commission as well as the Chairperson of WGEI, represented the Working Group. The Chairperson was assisted by Ms Albab Tesfaye, staff of the Secretariat of the Commission.
During the Visit, the delegation held detailed discussions with the Minister of Mines and Petroleum; State Minister of the Foreign Affairs of Ethiopia; Commissioner of the Ethiopian Investment Commission (EIC); Chief Commissioner of the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC); a representative of the Natural Resources Management Section of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA); a Board Member of the Ethiopian Human Rights Council (EHRCO); and representatives of the Centre for Human Rights of the University of Addis Ababa.
During these meetings, the Working Group presented the purposes of the advocacy visit and explained in details the various normative standards of the Commission governing foreign investment and the operations of businesses including extractive industries within the framework of Articles 21 and 24 of the African Charter.
In respect to extractive industries sector in Ethiopia, the Working Group notes the following positive developments:
- Review of existing policies and laws governing the extractive industries sector with the participation of stakeholders and clear benchmarks for upstream, midstream and downstream activities;
- Revision and restructuring of the institutional set up of the ministry to beef up and establish dedicated institutional capacity for ensuring compliance with terms of licence agreements, environmental standards, and labour standards;
- Initiatives for creating national technical capacity for the extractive industries sector;
- The establishment of national legislation establishing the 50%, 25% and 25% scheme for equitable sharing of revenues from the extractive industries sector between the regional government (where the operations take place), national government and other regions of the country;
- The plan to implement local content requirements;
- The establishment of the Ethiopian Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative office; and
- The provision to local communities of a percentage of the share of the operation of extractive industries.
In respect to the operation of investors and bilateral investment agreements, the Working Group notes the following positive developments
- Recognition of the need for ensuring the provision of improved wages, transfer of skills for workers and the formation of trade unions, which have not been allowed in industrial parks;
- The plan to assess the serious human rights issues affecting women (who constitute more than 80% of the work force in industrial parks and the horticulture sector) and initiate measures for addressing them;
- The recognition of the need for changing the approach of government in expropriation of land to comply with human rights standards (of effective consultation, prompt, adequate and effective compensation with provision of support for resettlement of those displaced from their land) and for creating institutional and economic conditions in the areas of operations of big investments for respecting and promoting the rights and wellbeing of local communities;
- Initiatives to address disagreements with local communities that led to the suspension of the operation of certain industries; and
- The review of the existing 30 plus bilateral investment treaties to ensure that the terms of these treaties safeguard the interests of the country, which is in accordance with Article 21(5) of the African Charter;
Noting existing gaps and challenges, the Working Group recommends that more should also be done
- to incorporate into the terms of licence of investors of obligations to contribute for local development activities in the areas of operation of their investment;
- to implement minimum living wage to ensure that the employment opportunities created from foreign investment are descent and sustainable;
- to put in place effective regulatory norms and institutions that ensure that i) the terms of the licence agreement of extractive industries are not exploitative by giving them little to no environmental and labour obligations, do not give disadvantageous tax break and duty free regimes; ii) conduct and strictly comply with the requirements of environmental, social and human rights impact assessment; and iii) monitor compliance with terms of licencing agreement, the required minimum environmental and labour standards.
- To ensure that the policy and laws put in place requirements as part of the engagement of extractive industries their responsibility for rehabilitating the environment during their operation (in the event of damage caused to the environment) and at the end of their operation;
- adequately reflect other human rights considerations such as land rights and displacement; the provision of effective grievance mechanisms where disputes arise between local communities and the extractive industries; acceptable labour standards for workers in industries; health rights of workers and host communities; and
- Put in place provisions for addressing gender-specific issues such as the personal safety and health of female workers particularly those working in industrial parks and in the horticulture sector.
- The Working Group also noted the need to have a robust regulatory framework to govern the financial aspect of the sector in order to increase transparency and to address illicit financial flow. The need to publicise the revenue generated from industries, the taxes collected, and the royalties paid, was also identified.
The Working Group commended the Ministry of Mines and Petroleum for its active engagement of numerous State and non-State actors in the reform process to ensure that various considerations are captured. The Working Group is of the view that the Ministry’s efforts in this regard could serve as an example to other countries seeking to reform their extractive industries sector.
The Commission wishes to draw the attention of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to the fact that Ethiopia is late in its submission of its periodic report under Article 62 of the African Charter and calls for the submission of the report in accordance with the reporting guidelines of the African Commission including the Reporting Guidelines and Principles on Articles 21 and 24 of the African Charter. The Commission also looks forward to a positive response to its request for undertaking a promotion mission to Ethiopia to enable the Commission play its role in supporting the wide-ranging positive changes taking place in the country through engaging all stakeholders.
The Ministry undertook to share its reform package with the Working Group, and WGEI in turn expressed its keen interest to support the Ministry, including by providing its technical expertise for ensuring that there is human rights complaint national policy and legal regime.
The Working Group also commends the Investment Commission for its candid recognition of existing gaps and the initiatives for taking corrective measures for addressing the human rights issues that arise in various areas of investment in Ethiopia.
Finally, the Working Group identified concrete areas for further engagement with other stakeholders, such as collaborating with the EHRC in its plan to develop a programme on business and human rights; collaborating with civil society actors in Ethiopia to raise awareness on and develop human rights expertise relating to the extractive industries sector; and collaborating with the Centre for Human Rights of Addis Ababa University to enhance students’ interest in the area and possibly start a short-course on business and human rights, including extractive industries.
The Working Group conveys its sincere thanks and appreciation to all the stakeholders it met, and looks forward to the follow up on the various issues discussed.Distributed by APO Group on behalf of African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights.