18 February 2019 -
Written by Laspnet
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On the 30th and 31st January 2019, Avocats Sans Frontieres in partnership with LASPNET convened a training for Legal Aid Service Provider advocates on business, human rights and corporate accountability at Esella Country Hotel. 


The training was aimed at building the capacity of lawyers to not only provide adequate legal representation to persons whose rights have be violated as a consequence of the exploitation of natural resources, but also to navigate the security risks that can possible arise during such representation. It was facilitated by experts from the Uganda Consortium on Corporate Accountability (UCCA)- Mr. Arnold Kwesiga, Advocates for Natural Resources and Development (ANARDE)- Mr. Frank Tumusiime and Chapter Four- Mr. Peter Magelah. 

In her welcome remarks, Ms. Sandra Oryema, the LASPNET Chairperson, Board of Directors   applauded the partnership between LASPNET and ASF noting that capacity building for members is one of LASPNET’s core mandates geared at strengthening the ability of LASPs to deliver efficient and effective services for improved Access to Justice for the poor, vulnerable and marginalised. She added that the knowledge and skills acquired should be used in provision of legal representation to the persons whose rights have been violated as a consequence of exploitation of natural resources by multinational companies. 

Mr. Romain Ravet, the Country director ASF appreciated the lawyers for being agents of rule of law & social change in their day to day work and urged them to utilise the knowledge and skills to reduce the ever-growing instances of violations of civil liberties and land grabs that result from actions by multi-national corporations.  He further noted that the training was borne out of the fact that most legal aid lawyers lacked knowledge in natural resources and corporate accountability laws which prompted ASF and LASPNET to organise it. 

 The areas covered during the two days included; Legal and policy framework on natural resources and their impacts on human rights; Principles of business and human rights in the International and Ugandan contexts; Enforcement mechanisms and Litigation in natural resource management; A case study on the practical application of legal and policy instruments in natural resource management; Relevance, experiences and building a rapid response mechanism.

The training revealed some of the hindrances that have led to escalating violations of human right by business entities to include; Corporate capture of the State, power relations by transnational companies, push for middle income status, increasing corporate social responsibility as opposed to respect for human rights as well as weak access to Justice mechanisms, limited or no evidence of violations against multi-national companies, among others.

 To address the above anomalies, some recommendations were made such as; involving communities in ongoing projects, meaningful consultation and free prior consent, due valuation & compensation of property of the affected persons in the communities, strengthening mechanisms to regulate companies beyond self-regulation, and restoration orders by government entities like NEMA to re instate the damaged environment. Others were; Development of a national action plan on business & human rights, Enforcing the minimum wage bill, Resolving the land settlement and rehabilitation frame work; Review of the mining policy to protect the environment through enforcing human rights, as well as conducting environmental impact assessments to determine the amount of damage projects may cause on the environment.

Through a case scenario on a natural disaster in a community, participants were able to dissect, present and receive criticism in relation to the rights violated, existing laws to support the case, and possible remedies.

While sharing experiences on handling legal rapid response, participants observed that many times specialisation by legal aid service providers at times locks out some would be beneficiaries of their services simply because the resources at their disposal do not cover the area under which the victim may have come into conflict with the law. Other shortcomings noted were; coordination challenges that lead to clashing on cases, state interference, lack of voluntarism among advocates/ organisations, corruption, weak judicial system and limited resources, among others. Collaboration, leadership and resources were agreed upon as essential for an effective legal rapid response mechanism.

 The training was closed off with a post test and evaluation session where participants shared their outputs. Some participants had this to say:

This wasn’t the usual human rights training; the facilitators were knowledgeable and the most outstanding session was that on natural resources”.

“It was very inciteful, a great learning experience especially for cases that require compensation, remedies, and restitution. Even identifying the right laws was enlightening as some of them are left out in such cases”.

LASPNET appreciates all members that nominated lawyer for the training, ASF for the continued partnership and the participants for sharing their experiences that enriched the interaction.