Two weeks ago, we re-ignited a conversation that we had started in 2019, on the role of businesses and the state in protecting human rights. We found that businesses had approached the issue of human rights through their corporate social responsibility (CSR), which gave them leeway to violate human rights while hiding under the cover of CSR.

In 2009, more than 200 delegates from many different countries, representing government, business, civil society, academia, national human rights institutions and United Nations organizations gathered in Geneva at the invitation of the UN human rights office. Their mission was to discuss the relationship between business and human rights and explore opportunities that would give a practical effect to the proposed framework for Business and Human Rights (BHR). And thus, the conversation on The Kenya National Action Plan  (NAP) on Business and Human Rights began. Fast forward a few years, Kenya has a draft NAP but is yet to be operationalized. What then does that mean for BHR?

On Thursday 27th August, we organized a webinar to discuss this: The way forward on business and human rights in Kenya. The webinar attracted players from the legal field, businesses, and research to demystify business and human rights and find the way forward. The conversation was moderated by our Dir Partnerships, James Wamathai and included the panelists below:

  • Laibuta Mugambi-Privacy and data protection expert, and advocate of the High Court of Kenya
  • Grace Mutung’u- Research fellow at CIPIT, Strathmore University
  • Maurice Otieno- Executive Director- Baraza Media Lab

The main take away from the webinar was, that business human rights should be more than just about compliance to avoid lawsuits. It should be the core values of a business. This included issues such as data protection and privacy, by companies to their customers and clients.

Most people understand data privacy and protection but are clueless when it is in the digital space context. Also, companies do not adhere to data protection laws, because they know they can get away with it.

Mugambi Laibuta, a data protection and privacy expert argues that when it came to data privacy and protection, the major component was security, but many companies had ignored this fact, making people’s data vulnerable. Also, he reckons that some companies sell their clients data without their consent, contrary to the Data Protection Law.

Maurice Otieno from Baraza Lab said it would be in companies; best interest to ensure good business human rights practices.

Human rights affect all sectors of the economy. However, there is a gap in information on peoples’ rights, business responsibility and accountability, lack of implementation on available laws on human rights and failure in the judiciary system. It is of great importance, that businesses are given an enabling environment to comply and the public given the necessary information or capacity building to recognize their human rights violations. In case you missed the webinar, read the conversation on #BusinessHumanRightsKE.