The initial principle that informed the work of the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (upon establishment as a Statutory Commission in 2003) was to have the widest interpretation of its mandate possible. It also sought to set the agenda on new frontiers of human rights. The aim of this philosophy was that human rights touched all aspects of human beings (their economic, social and political). It is on this basis that the National Commission explored the field of business and human rights from the onset. In addition, an analysis of complaints received in these early years were predominantly related to businesses and more so in regard to industrial disputes. Deep analysis of the complaints demonstrated the impacts businesses had on human rights, with poor pay, with holding of benefits, unfair dismissals, environmental pollution, and child labour among others.
KNCHR participated in the negotiations leading to the development of ISO 26000, which is a global standard that would assist organizations to contribute to sustainable development. The process was led by the International Organization for Standardization. Since this was to be enforced neither were there certifications to follow adherence, the discussions informing this standards were highly participatory and knchr participated extensively. The standard was adopted and published in 2010. Read more: https://www.iso.org/standard/42546.html
During the development of the Protect, Respect and Remedy framework and its subsequent operationalization as the United National Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, KNCHR participated in the discussions leading to the UNGPs.
The constitution and the KNCHR Act gives the National Commission a broad mandsate on protecting and promoting human rights. This mandate is also in line with the globally agreed on Paris Principles which spell out the mandate of National Human Rights Institutions. The Kenya National Commission on Human Rights is fully compliant with the Paris Principles and is graded as “A’ Status National Human Rights Institution by the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions (GANHRI). These functions include investigations, Human Rights Education, Advisory to the state on compliance with international human rights obligations
Following this heavy mandate the National Commission has carried out several activities on Human Rights:
Following complaints from the community in Magarini area of Malindi in Kilifi County, the National Commission undertook a public inquiry into the Salt Mining. Key among the complaints by the community was dispossession of Land by the salt companies, deliberate salination of their fresh water wells, poor working conditions in the factories, child labour, harassment by the then provincial administration and police, among other human rights violations. The inquiry which involved a cross section of stakeholders came up with findings and recommendations for duty bearers. The Commission and other stakeholders continue to follow up on the implementation of the recommendations. This includes the Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM) through the Global Compact.
Over time the National Commission has been overwhelmed by the extent of human rights violations in the mining sector. Therefore in order to get a comprehensive understanding of the issues and issue the necessary recommendations to the various actors, a public inquiry was the most appropriate means of investigations and understanding of the issues on the ground.
Before the inquiry hearings various activities were carried out. These included:
From these engagements, several issues were identified as the cause of human rights gaps inn Taita Taveta. These included; lack of effective and transparent land administration, corruption in issuance of title deeds, overlapping mining licences, labour issues, sexual and gender based violence, harassment by administrators among other issues.