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CNDH statement at the online consultation on “Actions of NHRIs for the next decade”

Mr. Khalid Ramli, Director of Cooperation and External Relations Department at the National Human Rights Council (CNDH) delivered a statement at the occasion of the online consultation on “Actions of National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) for the next decade” on Tuesday 18 March 2021, which will be hosted by the Working Group on Business and Human Rights (BHR) of the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions (GANHRI), with the support of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP).

In his statement, he shared the experience of the Moroccan NHRI and its role in facilitating access to remedy for business-related human rights abuses.

The statement reads as follows:

“It is my pleasure to participate in this wonderful consultation and share with you the experience of the National Human Rights Council of Morocco. Allow me first to recall that the CNDH has been engaged on Business and Human Rights, in such a manner to encourage the government and businesses to respect their human rights obligations, promote access to remedies in cases of alleged violations of human rights by businesses. Based on the UNGPs’ three-pillar “Protect, Respect and Remedy”, we have focused, on ways to effectively monitor these violations and ensure that victims have access to effective remedies when harm occurs.
The mandate of the CNDH has been provided for in its founding law of 2018, which entrusted it with addressing all human rights violations, based on complaints from individuals or groups or based on a self-tasking mission, or a mediation. The CNDH has three mechanisms provided by the international instruments (NPM, disability rights and children rights) and 12 local commissions in different regions of Morocco, which allows it to be close to individuals, when it comes to access to remedies. We also intervene in a preemptive manner in case of tensions likely to lead to the occurrence of violations of human rights through mediation and reconciliation actions. To be noted that the government has to respond to our complaints within a deadline of three months, reduced to two months in urgent cases.
In practice, we reported in 2019 a number of measures relating to promoting access to remedies. The CNDH-Morocco handled 19 complaints related to business and human rights. In particular, we addressed cases involving environmental issues, labor disputes, right to healthcare and housing, and disputes with management. We sought to resolve those cases in coordination with the authorities. And here, I would like to mention that the engagement with the government, businesses and human rights defenders is very important so that a resolution of the cases meets the satisfaction of the complainants. For example, we have been conducting hearings with the public authorities, following a complaint filed by civil society groups and environmental defenders concerning a public landfill/discharge, which is located on fertile lands of farmers. We will continue this mission during the year through field visits and hearings with individuals who might be affected by this project.
During the Covid-19 crisis, we have been monitoring the various measures taken to mitigate the impacts of the pandemic. As you know human rights has been impacted, including the right to employment and social protection, in Morocco a Fund of more than 3 billion euros was set up to support the economy, among other things. We welcome that several big companies have contributed significantly to the Fund, as part of Responsible Business Conduct. Also, those who received the hardest hit benefited from this fund, including those in vulnerable situations, including workers in formal and informal sectors were financially supported. The CNDH, with all its components also contributed to this Fund. Also, a project to reform the social protection and register policy, institutional and legal frameworks has been launched very recently. And it should improve the human rights situation of workers.
We have been monitoring the practices of companies and how they managed the pandemic crisis of Covid 19, while respecting human rights. We noticed several shortcomings in some companies, especially with the gradual return to normal economic activities. We monitored that there was lack of preventive measures in some companies, including a strawberry factory employing mainly women, and a fish canning plant, employing thousands of workers. Tens of workers have been tested positive and an investigation has been launched by the Public Prosecutor to identify responsibilities and ensure impunity. Among the context of Covid-19, the CNDH launched a call entitled for commitment to human rights at work after the lockdown: where it recommended that companies should adopt due diligence for a more resilient society.
In general we see that access to remedies should be promoted more than ever in the current context, in light of the measures taken and the challenges presented. It goes without saying that the virus has had dire effects on the enjoyment of the right to work, as it caused great suffering and demonstrated a great degree of vulnerability for a wide group of workers, as a large number of them were subjected to dismissal or and a lack of working hours. While the epidemic from a medical point of view affects everyone without discrimination, however in terms of employment, it affects the most vulnerable groups, which may lead to an expansion of the base of poverty and an increase in unemployment rates to high levels, especially among young people. In our report of 2020, we will conduct an assessment of the situation.
One of the key opportunities for a better improvement of human rights in business environment is the strategic planning. We proposed a chapter that was included in National Action Plan on Democracy and Human Rights, officially adopted by the government in 2017. The Council has been monitoring the implementation of the protection measures in this plan.
The CNDH-Morocco recommended in our report of 2019 the adoption of national action plan on BHR and we are taking part in the ongoing discussion on preparing a NAP on businesses and human rights that meets the international standards in this field. The CNDH ensures that the human rights standards be integrated in the NAP.
Another opportunity available to the CNDH of Morocco and I believe this could be a good practice that other NHRI may advocate for is the fact that we are member of the National Contact Point (NCP). We contributed to the handling of specific instances, sometimes extraterritorial. The fact that CNDH is a member of the Moroccan NCP is a great asset because it is a promotion of the UN Guiding principles and the OECD framework.
One of the challenges is the lack of awareness about access to remedies among workers and the general public and I think NHRI has a key role to play in this regard. We sought to address this issue by organizing various activities with enterprises and also through our various reports. For example, we recommended in 2019 that the NCP should be reinforced and its roles and mandate should be disseminated”.