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20 Nov 2020

Centre d’Etudes et de recherches en droit de l’environnement (CERDE) & African Coalition for Corporate Accountability (ACCA)

CERDE & ACCA issue joint statement on recent position taken by Burkinabe Minister of Commerce on the Swiss Responsible Business Initiative

"Joint statement by CERDE &  ACCA on the recent position taken by the Burkinabe Minister of Commerce on the Swiss Responsible Business", 19 Nov 2020

The Burkinabe Minister of Industry, Trade and Handicrafts, Mr Harouna Kaboré, was visiting Bern last week. He indicated his disagreement with the “Popular Initiative for Responsible Business Initiative” (RBI) that will be submitted to a vote in Switzerland on November 29. Widely relayed in Swiss media, the position taken by the Burkinabe minister is quite a bias and a regrettable interference in the democratic debate internal to Switzerland... [T]he current context in Switzerland is marked by unprecedented lobbying of large multinational companies doing everything possible to combat the RBI.

The CERDE and the ACCA are concerned by this stance of the Burkinabe Minister. His position [...] contradicts the official positions of Burkina Faso on the issue of the accountability of multinational corporations with regards to human rights. It further defeats Burkina Faso's international commitments on issues related to environmental protection and human rights.

Minister Harouna Kaboré [...] claims that the Initiative "infantilises" African countries...

The “infantilisation” argument [...] completely ignore the everyday reality of human rights violations and environmental damages caused by certain multinational corporations around the world, as well as the impunity they enjoy...

Moreover, the position of the Burkinabe minister is at odds with international normative developments on this issue. It equally contradicts Burkina's international efforts and commitments on the need to fill the accountability gap when it comes to multinational companies and the protection of human rights and the environment...

It appears clearly that Burkina Faso militates, internationally and regionally, in favour of more binding international obligations for multinational companies when it comes to environmental and human rights matters. This commitment has continuously been requested and welcomed by Burkinabe and African civil society organisations. It is therefore hard to understand how the country could abruptly take a dim view of the adoption of national laws like the one currently initiated in Switzerland...

The position taken by Burkinabe Minister Harouna Kaboré tends to dangerously deprive citizens of the fundamental guarantees offered by international legal instruments. It also tends to deny their rights to an effective remedy in the event of human rights violations caused by the operations of multinational companies.

We urge the government of Burkina Faso to clarify this matter as the position of its minister is contrary to its international commitments...