African states are signatory to more than 900 investment treaties. Majority of these have been signed with non-African states. The intention for signing investment treaties is vested within the solo interest to protect the rights of foreign investors in the host state, albeit at the cost of human rights and the host states’ development interests. For more than “20 years, ‘human rights’ and ‘business’ were very rarely used in the same sentence. Human Rights were the business of Governments while companies just had to mind their own business.” The rise of the human rights era was mainly anchored around the State, both as the main protector of human rights but also a major violator. It was driven by the State obligation not only to promote, protect and respect human rights, but also to ensure that non-state actors including business entities, respect all human rights. Human rights are the inalienable basic rights i.e. the right to food, shelter, dignified employment, health, education, freedom from discrimination, gender equality and development. Access to these rights is both a moral and legal issue, not charity. This fact sheet will act as an information tool for government officials, policy makers, civil society, trade unions and other key stakeholders to better understand and appreciate the importance of the UN Treaty on Business and Human Rights amidst the current global and regional trade; and investment policy dynamics, growing corporate capture and dwindling policy space for states to regulate businesses and citizens to hold corporations accountable. The fact sheet will also act as an advocacy for civil society, trade unions and other key stakeholders in their participation and engagement with their governments in this process.
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