UN appoints Olawuyi into Biz, Human Rights working group

Ogunsakin Mustapha
5 Min Read
Prof Damilola Olawuyi SAN

Frontline energy lawyer and Deputy Vice Chancellor of Afe Babalola University, Ado Ekiti (ABUAD), Professor Damilola Olawuyi, SAN has been appointed by the President of the United Nations Human Rights Council to serve on the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights as an Independent Expert.

Professor Olawuyi begins a six-year mandate as Africa’s representative on this prestigious body, a position most recently occupied by Former Attorney General of Kenya, Mr. Githu Muigai. The appointment was made at the just-concluded 50th Regular Session of  the United Nations Human Rights Council.

Established in 2011 through UN Resolution 17/4, the Working Group on the issues of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises (also referred to as the Working Group on Business and Human Rights) comprises five accomplished independent experts drawn from different world regions. The expert body has a mandate to promote the effective and comprehensive dissemination and implementation of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights through country visits, capacity building and dialogue with Governments and all relevant actors, especially business enterprises.

Prof Damilola Olawuyi SAN

A prolific scholar with expertise in petroleum, mining, energy, environment, business, human rights, and public international law, Olawuyi has published over 150 articles, book chapters and books on all aspects of sustainable development in the extractive industries. He has served as a consultant to the United Nations, World Bank, and the UK’s Department for International Department, among others. He is global Vice Chair of the International Law Association (ILA), Vice President of the Nigerian Branch of the ILA and member of the International Bar Association’s academic advisory group on energy, environment and natural resources.

Professor Olawuyi has delivered lectures on energy law in over 40 countries in Europe, North America, Asia, Africa and the Middle East. In 2019, he received the Herbert Smith Freehills Visiting Professorship at the University of Cambridge, United Kingdom. He holds the UNESCO Chair on Environmental Law and Sustainable Development at Hamad Bin Khalifa University, Doha, Qatar.

This is not the first international appointment for Prof. Olawuyi. In 2020, he was appointed by the African Union (AU) to serve on the AU Working Group on Extractive Industries, Environment and Human Rights Violations, while in 2021, he was appointed by President Muhammadu Buhari as a member of the Governing Board of the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI).

At age 38 years, Olawuyi now becomes one of the youngest mandate holders ever appointed by the UN. Speaking on his appointment, Professor Olawuyi, SAN said: “It is an absolute privilege and honor to have been appointed by the United Nations to serve on this important Working Group.  The obligations of business enterprises in all sectors to respect, protect and fulfil fundamental human rights across their entire business operations and value chain has become well entrenched in international law. Our Working Group has the key mandate of assisting business enterprises in implementing this obligation, while also working with national authorities to develop national legislation, action plans and safeguards to hold defaulting entities to account;

I look forward to contributing my best to this important task. I thank the President of the UN Human Rights Council for the confidence in me and I very much look forward to working with other members of the Working Group to advance the important work of deepening a culture of human rights in business activities and investments worldwide”.

He said further: “For over eleven years, the Working Group has played an active role in informing the UN Human Rights Council on the possible liability of transnational corporations and other business enterprises for human and peoples’ rights violations in key sectors, especially oil and gas, and solid minerals development. Amongst other functions, the Working Group formulates recommendations and proposals to the UN Human Rights Council on the appropriate measures and activities for the prevention and reparation of violations of human and peoples’ rights by industries”.

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