June 22, 2016

UNPO Announces UNHRC Side-Event - Business and Human Rights in Ethiopia: Double-Digit Growth at what Cost?

On the occasion of the 32nd Regular Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council, the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO), in collaboration with the Ogaden People’s Rights Organization (OPRO) and the Nonviolent Radical Party (NRP), will be organizing a side-event entitled ‘Business and Human Rights in Ethiopia: Double-Digit Growth at What Cost?’. The event will draw attention to the ongoing, systematic and large-scale violations of human rights committed hand-in-hand by transnational corporations and the Ethiopian government, and will take place at the Palais des Nations, in Geneva, on 22 June 2016 from 10-11am.

Ethiopia is generally hailed as an African democratic role model and a beacon of stability and hope in an otherwise troubled region. The country is a darling of the developmental community and has become one of the West’s key allies in the region. World leaders court the regime of Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn for desperate need of a henchman in the region, who is willing to throw its doors wide open to the demands of big business, while simultaneously preventing the assumed mass exodus of impoverished population groups from the wider region to presumably “promised lands”.

The dire human rights’ situation in Ethiopia is strongly connected to the havoc wreaked by damaging, large-scale business operations, notably in areas inhabited by ethnic groups who are already being systematically marginalized and suppressed by the central government. In regions such Ogaden, Addis Ababa has awarded millions of hectares of land to multinational oil companies, mining conglomerates and agro-businesses. The concomitant destruction of local ecosystems thwarts the livelihood of millions of people. Worse still, local populations are brutally evicted from their ancestral homelands, often by using targeted killings, rape, and confiscation of livestock. Avowedly universal human rights are thus wantonly sacrificed on the altar of major economic interests and so-called ‘development’.

Against this background, the proposed side-event to the 32nd Regular Session of the UNHRC seeks to raise awareness for the ongoing, systematic and large-scale violations of human rights committed hand-in-hand by transnational corporations and the Ethiopian government. The event will address the lack of transparency regarding environmental protection and the pressing issues of forced displacement and ‘landgrabbing’.