Uganda - A bright future

Peter Hood is a solicitor and Hogan Lovells consultant currently living in Kampala, Uganda who specialises in business and human rights and international arbitration.  He recently gave two guest lectures to law students at Makerere University in Kampala, on his experience of practicing in these areas.  Here is a diary excerpt of the lecture, as experienced by Peter himself.

On Friday 7 April, I was invited to give two guest lectures at the law faculty of Makerere University, Kampala.  This was a real honour - the faculty is widely seen as one of the best in Africa and the university has an illustrious list of alumni, including heads of state past and present such as Julius Nyerere and Joseph Kabila, the current archbishop of York, John Sentamu and numerous leading East African jurists and lawyers.

I was asked to give a practitioner's perspective on two areas of the law in which I specialise: international arbitration and business and human rights. As Uganda's oil industry moves into the production phase and plans are laid for the construction of a $4 billion oil refinery in Hoima and a 1400km pipeline connecting the oil fields with the Indian Ocean, these areas of the law are a hot topic in Uganda.  The future lawyers, businesspeople and politicians in the audience who stand to inherit this exciting opportunity were keen to understand the role that international arbitration and business and human rights might play in their careers and in shaping the next chapter of Uganda's future.

Increasingly, international arbitration is the dispute resolution mechanism of choice for the oil sector.  Arbitration agreements are widely found in production sharing contracts, joint operating agreements and service contracts with oilfield service providers.  If these prospective Ugandan lawyers are to get the most out of the opportunities presented by the oil boom, it is important that they enter practice with an understanding of how arbitration works.  So, in the first lecture, I followed the life cycle of a typical international commercial arbitration, from drafting the agreement through to the enforcement of the award.  The audience was particularly interested in the interaction between the rule of law and international arbitration and whether arbitration can be used to mitigate the risk of judicial corruption.

In the second lecture, I focussed on business and human rights.  In the past, oil extraction in developing countries has been an area where there has been a high risk of human rights impacts.  In response, responsible international oil companies have been at the forefront of the drive to embed respect for human rights into their operations.  An understanding of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and the "Protect, Respect, Remedy" Framework will help to ensure that business, government and civil society can work together on the basis of clear expectations to reduce the risk of adverse human rights impacts.  We discussed the status of the Guiding Principles as non-binding, "soft" law and the strengths and weaknesses of this approach, including whether one day they might harden into a form of "hard" or binding law.

We closed by discussing Hogan Lovells' plans to collaborate with clients on projects to strengthen the rule of law as part of the Rule of Law 2030 initiative to contribute to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.   This will build on the findings of our 2015 "Risk and Return" report which revealed that the strength of the rule of law in a given jurisdiction ranks as one of the most important factors determining where multinational enterprises locate foreign direct investment.  We are currently talking to stakeholders and developing the concept so it was great to hear the students' ideas.  Watch this space!

If you would like more information on these issues or Peter's work in Kampala, contact us at  

Makerere building        Makerere lecture room

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