September 21, 2010

African Development, U.S. Trade Policy, and Human Rights

Over the past decade a number of African countries have made important strides in improving their economies.  Higher rates of economic growth are contributing to poverty alleviation in this poorest region of the world.  Increased regional and global integration, coupled with reduced levels of conflict, are making sub-Saharan Africa a more appealing venue for foreign investment. 

A number of serious legal and institutional barriers, however, continue to deter economic development and the advancement of human rights in sub-Saharan Africa.  Insecure property and tenure rights drive conflict, contribute to human rights violations, stifle agricultural productivity, and lead to environmental degradation.  In addition, government corruption deters economic investment and growth and perpetuates human rights abuses.

When formulating policies to promote trade and human rights in sub-Saharan Africa, it is important for U.S. policymakers to consider options for achieving land tenure security, institutionalizing good governance principles, and promoting public and private sector initiatives for corporate social responsibility. 

Panel I considers the background of property and land tenure rights in sub-Saharan Africa, with a focus on the consequences for human rights and economic growth of the region’s complex property environment.  

Panel II examines the opportunities and legal challenges of trade in sub-Saharan Africa in the context of human rights law and corporate social responsibility.