The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the Commission), through the Chairperson of the Working Group on Extractive Industries, Environment and Human Rights (WGEI) and the Commissioner responsible for the promotion and protection of human and peoples’ rights in the Republic of Kenya, Commissioner Solomon Ayele Dersso, is concerned by reports that a petrochemical industry group is lobbing to influence trade negotiations between the Republic of Kenya and the United States of America (the US), to allow the import of plastic waste into Kenya from the US.
The Commission applauds the previous strong action by Kenya in 2019, as a signatory to the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal, by pledging to limit the import of foreign plastic waste, as well as the strong national legislation banning the manufacture, sale and distribution of plastic carrier bags in Kenya since 2017.
The Commission affirms these restrictions as necessary measures to safeguard the environment under Article 24 of the African Charter and that the health and livelihood hazards that result from plastic waste should not be reversed.
The Commission is further concerned by the efforts of plastics and chemical manufacturing companies to use Africa as their destination for dumping plastic waste and the more than quadruple increase from the previous year in the export of plastic waste to Africa in 2019.
The Commission expresses its grave concern about the consequences of allowing our countries to be used for dumping plastic waste, including the impacts on the health and wellbeing of people and the environment, as water bodies and land are spoiled with clutter of plastics and plastic waste.
The Commission recalls the obligation of State Parties to the African Charter, elaborated in the Commission’s State Reporting Guidelines and Principles on Articles 21 and 24 of the African Charter relating to Extractive Industries and the Environment (Guidelines and Principles), which requires States to take steps to ensure that the enjoyment of the rights guaranteed by the Charter is not interfered with by any third party. States have an obligation to protect their citizens from damaging acts that may be perpetrated by third parties and to take reasonable decisions and other measures to prevent pollution and ecological degradation.
The Commission therefore:
- Reminds the Government of Kenya and other Parties to the African Charter of their obligations under Article 24 of the African Charter to provide for all peoples the right to a general satisfactory environment favourable to their development, including by taking measures to restrict the use of materials such as chemicals and plastic waste that damage the environment and under Article 21 (5) to eliminate all forms of foreign economic exploitation including those taking the form of exploitative and environmentally damaging terms contained in trade and investment agreements;
- Urges the Government of Kenya to ensure that in the negotiation of trade agreements with foreign States, the best interest of the Kenyan people is served, and that the existing environmental protections are not rolled back and environmental obligations continue to be respected;
- Calls on other stakeholders, including the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights and civil society organisations to support and urge the State to uphold national and international human rights and environmental obligations in all trade dealings with third countries; and
- Appeals to the African Union to champion the protection of the environment on the continent, including by implementing measures similar to the commitment made by Kenya in 2019 to limit the import of foreign plastic waste and its 2017 national legislation banning the manufacture, sale and distribution of plastic carrier bags.
Commissioner Solomon Ayele Dersso, PhD
Chairperson, ACHPR Working Group on Extractive Industries, Human Rights and Environment in Africa
Banjul, 01 September 2020