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Eritrea: Human Rights Impact Assessment Of The BMSC 2015 Audit

Bisha Plant - Cu and Zn Flotation Areas - Jul-2015

Human Rights Impact Assessment Of The BMSC 2015 Audit

By Metkel Tesfay

In 2005, the UN SecretaryGeneral appointed John Ruggieas Special Representative on human rights and transnational corporations. Ruggie’smandate was, “to identify and clarify standards of corporate responsibility and accountability for transnational corporations and other business enterprises with regard to human rights”. This task also included a request “to develop materials and methodologies for undertaking human rights impact assessments of the activities of transnational corporations and other business enterprises”. As part of this process, companies were asked to conduct human rights “due diligence….In order to identify, prevent and mitigate adverse human rights impacts, and to account for their performance, business enterprises should carry out human rights due diligence.” The process was designed to“assess actual and potential human rights impacts, integrating and acting upon the findings, and tracking as well as communicating their performance.” Subsequently, in March 2011, the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) enhanced its reporting standards by including a Human Rights Impact Assessment requirement.

A Human Rights Impact Assessment, HRIA, is designed to complement a company or government’s other impact assessment and due diligence processes framed by relevant international human rights principles and conventions. HRIAs identify, predict and respond to potential human rights impacts of a business operation, capital project, government policy, or trade agreement in an identified area within a given country. HRIAs are rooted in the context and realities of the particular project and incorporate the context within which the project operates by engaging directly with those peoples whose rights may be at risk.

In Eritrea’s case, an initial HRIA of the Bisha Mine began in 2013 and the findings were published in an extensive report in April 2014.

The report included a series of recommendations for strengthening ongoing human rights due diligence at the Bisha Mine site. The HRIA was commissioned by Nevsun Resources Ltd. (Nevsun) with the support and cooperation of the Eritrean National Mining Corporation (ENAMCO). The HRIA process was conducted by LKL International Consulting Inc, an independent firm. The latest in this series, the HRIA 2015 Audit, was just released, on August 5, and it presents the latest findings and recommendations of the ongoing HRIA process for the Bisha Mine.

According to the assessment team, what makes this particular case unique is that “HRIAs conducted to date have been one-time exercises that present a snapshot of the human rights situation at a particular point in time.” In the Bisha Mining Share Company’s case, however, “the assessment team’s mandate has been extended to the monitoring and auditing of the Bisha Mine. In this way, the HRIA has become an ongoing process. This represents a potential innovation in HRIA practice where an ongoing process extends beyond simply assessing impacts and supports further elements of human rights due diligence (i.e., integration and acting, tracking, and communication)”.

According to the HRIA 2015 Audit, the assessment team notes that “the ongoing HRIA process continues to build trust, understanding, and relationships with local stakeholders, workers, and managers at the site, as well as with the Government of Eritrea and other Eritrean stakeholders— all of which helps to elicit more nuanced and in-depth information about the human rights situation at the Bisha Mine.”

Perhaps in stark contrast to what is usually reported about Eritrea by mainstream media – for example, the BBC team that visited the country recently, as well as the deliberate media blitz organized by the UN’s Comission of Inquiry’s (COI) – the HRIA assessment team emphasizes that “throughout the four field missions to Eritrea to date, there has been unfettered access to people, places, and documentation.The assessment team has not been assigned “handlers” nor did it experience interference by the Government of Eritrea in any aspect of the assessment work.”

Furthermore, the report notes, there has been “substantial engagement with international stakeholders since the publication of the initial HRIA report. This engagement has included meetings with Parliamentarians, government officials, NGOs, academics, experts, and socially responsible investors. This has provided an opportunity to receive feedback about the evolving approach to human rights at the Bisha Mine, as well as feedback on the specific recommendations from the HRIA.”

The assessment team seems content to report that “Nevsun has adopted a stand-alone Human Rights Policy and integrated a section on human rights into its Code of Ethics. Furthermore, Nevsun and ENAMCO have agreed to adopt a stand-alone Workers’ Rights Policy for BMSC.

The development and roll out of this Eritrean, site-level human rights policy provides a good opportunity to raise further awareness about human rights with workers, communities, and business partners, as well as to embed responsibilities for the ongoing implementation of human rights due diligence at the Bisha Mine.”

Lastly, the HRIA 2015 Audit acknowledges key points that mainstream media often choose to deliberately ignore, such as:

• The Government of Eritrea has reformed its criminal and civil code and rules of procedure

• Eritrea continues to be actively engaged with the UN’s Office for the High Commissioner on Human Rights as part of the Universal Periodic Review exercise

• Eritrea has received credit for its achievements on a number of Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)—particularly related to health—as the international community takes stock of progress at the 2015 deadline for the MDGs

• The Government of Eritrea as well as Nevsun have publicly objected to the baseless and unwarranted COI report that was published in June 2015

In short, this latest HRIA 2015 Audit is a context-based, nuanced report that will surely be welcomed by all stakeholders of the Bisha Mining Share Company whose interest is to guarantee due diligence on human rights issues and to ensure that human rights are respected and upheld as part of the company’s business practices.

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Eritrea: Human Rights Impact Assessment Of The BMSC 2015 Audit Reviewed by Admin on 4:55 AM Rating: 5

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