Irish government responds … sort of

United Nations Human Rights Council logo.

The United Nations framework and guiding principles on business and human rights were raised in the Dáil last week. On 28 March 2013, the following question was put by Peadar Tóibín TD:

To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he has any plans to issue a policy response to the endorsement by the Human Rights Council of the United Nations Framework and Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights; and if the response will also address the European Commission’s call for EU Member States to develop national plans for the implementation of the Guiding Principles.

The Minister issued a written answer as follows:

On 16 June 2011, the UN Human Rights Council endorsed “Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights”. The Guiding Principles cover a range of issues which in this State span the policy responsibilities of a number of Government Departments and agencies. Consideration is currently being given as to how to address these Guiding Principles and also the European Commission’s invitation to EU member States to develop national plans for implementation of the Guiding Principles.

Not exactly the broad policy response that had been hoped for. The best that can be said is that there is at least an acknowledgment of these developments by the Government and a recognition that they are deserving of attention. It is true that business and human rights issues cut across departments so a coordinated effort will be needed. Further follow-up will be required to make sure that the consideration is meaningful, and that it is undertaken soon. The EU Commission’s deadline for national implementation plans passed several months ago, at the end of 2012.

* * UPDATE * *

As part of its current presidency of the Council of the EU, Ireland had agreed to host a workshop on the national implementation of the United Nations framework and guiding principles in May. The Government has now withdrawn from this event. It seems it may go ahead later in the year, under the European Group of National Human Rights Institutions, but no longer as an official Irish EU presidency event. The “consideration” being given to the United Nations guiding principles now has a very hollow ring to it.

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