Trócaire’s business and human rights policy position paper

Trócaire has been quite active in the area of business and human rights in recent years, having prepared an advocacy manual on the topic and contributed in various ways to the ongoing Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade consultation on a national plan. The organisation’s detailed policy position paper on business and human rights was the first submission received by the Department in relation to its national plan. Selina Donnelly, policy officer with Trócaire, previously wrote a post for the blog outlining its key recommendations; a national action plan implementing the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, as she put it:

… provides Ireland a valuable opportunity to reflect on their approach to business and human rights, to identify any gaps in the legal and regulatory framework and to take action to strengthen the overall government approach.

Trócaire’s position paper is comprehensive and contains numerous valuable recommendations for the Irish Government. The analysis is grounded in international human rights law and particular emphasis is placed on the State’s duty to protect human rights, as set out in Pillar 1 of the Guiding Principles. It is not possible to do it justice in this short post, so I will just highlight a few of its recommendations:

  • Gender Focus. Acknowledging that business activities may have different impacts on women and men, a gender focus should be integrated in all elements of the National Action Plan
  • Investigation of foreign bribery allegations. Increased efforts should be made to investigate allegations of foreign bribery in a proactive and timely manner, and to ensure that Irish companies are aware of their obligations under the law
  • Requirement for human rights reporting. Enterprise Ireland and Bord Bia should also require that client companies provide environmental, social and human rights reporting.
  • Government procurement. Irish government procurement processes should reward human rights reporting and due diligence through use of appropriately weighted scoring systems, and should exclude from tendering processes any company which is complicit in human rights violations
  • Influencing policies of multilateral institutions. Ireland should work to bring about a comprehensive mainstreaming of human rights in the guidelines and operations of the World Bank, IMF and other international institutions

In relation to access to remedies, the position paper notes that the globalised nature of business activities means that “states can no longer ignore the imperative to ensure that their corporations respect human rights, wherever they are operating”. Companies themselves have been calling for clarity as to what is required of them. And victims are let down by the existing international structures and the territorial focus of most domestic legal systems. Trócaire see the need for a review by the Irish Government in this context:

  • Remedy Procedure for victims Ireland should review how best to ensure remedy for potential victims overseas of human rights abuses by Irish companies, ensuring that victims of HR violations are not faced with undue barriers to justice, including legal, procedural or financial barriers.

The full position paper can be accessed here.

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