Following its annual NGO Forum in November on the subject of business and human rights, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is undergoing a consultation process for its development of a national implementation plan for the United Nations Guiding Principles on business and human rights and has asked for submissions by interested parties.
Speaking in the Dáil recently, Minster for Foreign Affairs and Trade Charlie Flanagan reiterated Ireland’s commitment to advancing this national plan. In the Minister’s view:
The development of a national plan is a valuable opportunity to situate Ireland as a progressive leader on the issue of business and human rights.
He also viewed it as being beneficial to business, as well as Ireland itself:
It is important for Ireland’s standing internationally and the reputation of Irish companies that we signal our commitment to placing human rights firmly on the business agenda. [T]he Plan will aim to assist Irish companies in meeting human rights standards in today’s fiercely competitive business environment.
As to the purpose of the plan itself, the Minister explained that this would provide a “reference framework” for the State, business and civil society (no mention of victims) in addressing “the challenges associated with business impact on human rights standards and how to help integrate human rights into corporate culture”. The national plan, it seems, will set out what the Government already does in this area, as well as what it intends to do in the future:
The Plan will provide information on existing policies in place and describe future steps that the Irish government plans to take to implement the UNGPs.
It is critical that civil society and others give their input to this process, to ensure that the plan is meaningful in terms of advancing respect for human rights by business. Various civil society organisations previously included business and human rights in their submissions to the Department’s Review of Irish Foreign Policy, while Trócaire have already prepared an excellent and thorough business and human rights policy position paper, with a view to the development of Ireland’s national implementation plan. Many of the recommendations made in the 2012 report of the Irish Centre for Human Rights, Business and Human Rights in Ireland, remain of relevance.
Views are welcomed by the Human Rights Unit of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade at firstname.lastname@example.org.