Parliament to support Social Impact Assessment bill
Parliament’s Committee on Gender Labour and Social Development has welcomed the move by government to impose mandatory social impact assessment before implementation of major development projects across the country.
Margaret Komuhangi (NRM-Nakassongola) , the committee chair, said on Tuesday that the policy would help curb forceful evictions that have characterized most of the major investments by both government and the private sector.
“Many people have been suffering during project implementation but with this law in place, definitely, the people stand to benefit and we shall support it,” she said.
Komuhangi said that the Social Impact Assessment and Accountability Bill which is currently at its draft is long overdue and it will receive immense support once it is tabled to Parliament.
“Let us allow government to do all preliminary studies and come to the committee, I am certain all members will receive it with smooth hands” said Komuhangi.
The bill comes as a result of dialogue between the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development and Human rights groups championed by the Initiative for Social and Economic Rights, a non-government organization fostering community awareness and participation in strategic decision undertakings.
The bill, according to Mr Bernard Mujuni, the Commissioner in charge of Equity and Rights in the ministry, is intended to foster adequate compensations, based on social costs incurred by all project affected persons.
“When we are considering the compensating communities, there are social costs, social capital must be tabulated…social capital includes networks of people, SACCOs, community bailouts in case of problems which are usually broken during relocation” he said.
He also added that, “when the Chief Government Valuer is valuing land, these are usually omitted yet they are tangible assets since Africa is organically social and our social capital must also be given value,” he said.
He also said that the bill if passed into law will aid the existing Environmental Impact Assessment under the minister and Water and Environment.
“This is going to iron out some of those inconsistencies so much talking to the areas identified under the ministry of Lands, and to do with comprehensive and fair commendation process,” said Mujuni.
Ms Salima Namusobya, the Executive Director for the Initiative for Social and Economic Rights said that the bill will also seek to protect the marginalised groups including the elderly as well as women and children, to have them included in the infrastructure development preparations prior to implementation, as well as safe guarding their interests on compensation funds.
“In a situation where we are relying more and more on private businesses, there is need for us to fast track existing gaps and have them harmonised for the good of the community,” she said.
She urged government to adopt and implement a national action plan on business and human rights business as well as strengthening the existing laws that regulate businesses so as to sincere adequate compensation measures for affected persons, instead of protecting investors’ interests at the expense of citizens.
Ms Paula Biraaro the Senior Human Rights Officer (Directorate of Monitoring and Inspections) at the Uganda Human Rights Commission cautioned that such an action plan should be clear with a progressive business case and should be developed in a consultative and participatory process with all the relevant stakeholders.
Meanwhile, citing the delays on Ntungamo-Kabale road, Mr Mujuni said that the people massively stole equipment and fuel meant for the project because they did not feel its purpose.