Ireland’s Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade on business and human rights

Eamon Gilmore, leader of the Irish Labour Part...

Business and human rights was raised in the Dáil this week with Eamon Gilmore, Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade. His response was similar to that given previously on the subject of Ireland’s implementation of the United Nations guiding principles on business and human rights, which is to say that it is ‘under consideration’. Deputy Sean Crowe asked the following question:

… if a national implementation plan for the United Nations Guiding Principles for business and human rights is currently being prepared, as requested by the European Commission in October 2011; and if there will be an opportunity for interested parties to participate in the formulation of such a plan.

Here’s the Minister’s response:

On 16 June 2011, the UN Human Rights Council endorsed “Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights: Implementing the United Nations ‘Protect, Respect and Remedy’ Framework”. The Commission Communication of October 2011, entitled “A renewed EU strategy 2011-14 for Corporate Social Responsibility” invited EU member States to develop national plans for the implementation of the UN Guiding Principles by the end of 2012. The EU Strategic Framework and Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy, adopted by the Council of the European Union in June 2012, asked Member States to develop national plans on the implementation of the UN Guiding Principles in 2013. 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 being given as to how to address the Guiding Principles and how best to go about formulating our national action plan for their implementation. Government Departments will be examining how to take this forward in the coming period.

A second question was put to the Minister, on account of the statement in the Irish Aid policy document One World, One Future that Ireland’s actions would be “guided by” the United Nations guiding principles. He was asked to explain:

the way in which he will ensure his commitment to the United Nations Guiding Principles on business and human rights, as set out in Irish Aid’s One World, One Future, with regard to Irish companies operating outside of Ireland; and if the legal and policy guidance will be provided to companies regarding their human rights responsibilities when operating overseas.

His response added little to his previous statement:

In May, the Tánaiste and I launched the Government’s new policy for international development, ‘One World, One Future’. It delivers on the commitment in the Programme for Government to review the 2006 White Paper on Irish Aid and sets out the framework for Ireland’s engagement in international development over the coming years. I believe this new framework which will help bring greater coherence to our work, and enable us to better plan for and measure more comprehensively the results which our development efforts are achieving. The fight against global poverty and hunger remain at the heart of Ireland’s aid programme and our policies on international development. However, we are also placing a strong emphasis on responding to situations of fragility and conflict, on inclusive and equitable economic growth, and on the promotion and protection of human rights. Importantly, the new policy also promotes more rounded relationships with our Key Partner Countries stressing the need to bring economic and political relations further into our dialogue and work with them.

In this context, One World, One Future makes a commitment to ensuring that economic development, including engagement by Irish companies, is compatible with Ireland’s commitment to human rights. It states that we will be guided by the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, which were endorsed by the UN Human Rights Council on 16 June 2011. These principles highlight the duty of states to protect against human rights abuses by third parties, the corporate responsibility to respect human rights and the need for victims to have access an appropriate remedy when violations take place. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, which manages the Government’s development programme, is now preparing an implementation plan which will set out the steps to be taken to give effect to the commitments made in One World, One Future, including those on business and human rights. These steps will also inform the broader considerations by Government Departments on how best to develop a National Action Plan on the implementation of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.

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