Supporting African advisers on responsible business: A&O and A4ID partner with the East Africa Law Society to deliver workshops for African lawyers on business and human rights
26 June 2017
Alongside rapid economic growth and thriving investment in East Africa, there is increasing demand for responsible business practices and corporate accountability when things go wrong.
To help legal advisers navigate human rights risks and opportunities for business, Allen & Overy (A&O), and an award-winning development law charity, Advocates for International Development (A4ID), have teamed up with the East Africa Law Society (EALS) to provide free workshops on business and human rights for lawyers in Uganda and Tanzania.
The peer-to-peer workshops, to be delivered in Kampala and Dar es Salaam in June 2017, will continue dialogue with East African lawyers about the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, a globally agreed standard on managing human rights impacts linked to business activity.
Gauthier van Thuyne, A&O Partner based in Brussels and member of the IBA Taskforce on Climate Change and Human Rights, commented, “Our commercial clients across the world are increasingly taking human rights considerations into account when making major investment decisions, in M&A transactions or when scrutinising their supply chains.”
“As lawyers, it is our duty to give clients comprehensive advice on human rights risks by anticipating potential problems to save time and money. These workshops will give an overview of global standards and discuss implementation tools and policies tailored for East African conditions.”
The workshops will draw on practical examples, including from the extractive and manufacturing industries, which are particularly relevant for African lawyers advising business, explained James Freeman, Counsel at A&O in London.
James said, “Clients need an all-around vision and awareness of pressing issues in the African market. We have seen that companies operating in Africa who integrate human rights throughout their business model gain in reputation and stability – it’s good for business. And the reverse is also true”.
“We have developed longstanding relationships with local counsel across Africa through decades of direct transactional work. Now we are pleased to be exchanging experiences of advising on and mitigating human rights risks with African colleagues and supporting A4ID’s efforts on responsible business.”
Brenda Dosio, EALS Program Officer said, “Disseminating information on the responsibilities of companies towards human rights with regard to, for example, labour practices, and the development of human rights policies are important and timely given the large plantations and growing extractive sector in the region.”
Yasmin Batliwala, A4ID’s Chief Executive commented: “These workshops not only introduce lawyers to the core messages of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, but also equip them with the practical knowledge to develop a human rights policy and grievance mechanism. Building on the success of A4ID’s business and human rights programme in Kenya, we hope that these trainings will act as a springboard for continuing peer-to-peer exchange on how lawyers can help companies to respect human rights.”
Together with A4ID, the workshops combine the expertise of A&O’s Africa Group and Human Rights Working Group, drawing on over 250 lawyers throughout the firm’s network of 44 offices. Over the past 25 years, the A&O Africa Group, together with selected local counsel, has advised clients on numerous large scale international transactions across the continent, providing an integrated service for clients doing business in Africa.
Although this is the first time A&O has facilitated business and human rights workshops in Africa, in the UK it regularly provides training for (and with) commercial clients on business and human rights issues and gives pro bono support on human rights cases and projects globally. Between 2009-14, A&O contributed to rebuilding the Rwandan justice sector by developing and delivering tailor-made training courses for Rwandan lawyers and judges to build capacity in the new legal system.
The workshops received financial and technical support from Rule of Law Expertise UK (ROLE UK) and UKAid. Further workshops are planned for lawyers in Burundi, Kenya and Zanzibar later in the year.
Advocates for International Development
Advocates for International Development (A4ID) is a global charity with a vision to see the law and lawyers play their full part in the eradication of poverty and the realisation of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. A4ID works with an extensive network of legal partners – more than 50,000 legal experts from every part of the world – whose pro bono work has so far benefitted communities and organisations in 123 countries. Through A4ID’s innovative pro bono broker service and bespoke pro bono projects, its respected education and training programmes, its acclaimed thought leadership and policy, and its international project work it is working hard to make that vision a reality. For more information, see http://www.a4id.org/
East Africa Law Society
The East Africa Law Society (EALS) is the umbrella Regional Bar Association of the legal profession in the East African Community region, bringing together the Law Societies of Burundi; Kenya; Rwanda; Uganda; Tanganyika and Zanzibar together with their individual members totalling over 15,000. Established in 1995, the East Africa Law Society works to enhance the professional competitiveness of its members; foster a conducive and progressive work environment for the legal profession in East Africa; and advocates for adherence to rule of law and good governance for sustainable social and economic development. For more information, see http://www.ealawsociety.org/