Trócaire have this week marked the launch of their campaign for a binding business and human rights treaty with the publication of their policy report Making a Killing: Holding Corporations to Account for Land and Human Rights Violations. The report provides a detailed and thorough look at the impact of corporate activities on land and human rights globally, sets out the failings and limitations of the international human rights system and makes the persuasive case for a binding treaty on business and human rights. A binding global instrument, according to Caoimhe de Barra, the CEO of Trócaire:
is urgently needed to protect the world’s poorest people and ensure their rights are not discarded in the hunt for profits … devastating human rights violations will continue to occur with impunity unless we move beyond voluntary approaches and bring in a legally binding treaty on business and human rights.
With this campaign, Trócaire are calling on Ireland to take action in the area of business and human rights, particularly in relation the development of a binding business and human rights instrument (the Irish government has not been supportive of this process to date). Launching the report on Tuesday, UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples Victoria Tauli Corpuz echoed this call:
it is important that a developed country stands up and express its full support for the adoption of a legally binding instrument to regulate corporations. The track record of Ireland in terms of promoting human rights globally places it in a very good position to pursue corporate accountability.
The report makes a number of important recommendations for Ireland, north and south, for all countries, and the international community, including the EU. Key recommendations aimed at the Irish government relate to improving corporate accountability, strengthening civil society space and protecting human rights defenders. On corporate accountability, Trócaire calls on Ireland to:
- Support a UN binding treaty on business and human rights to regulate in international law the activities of transnational corporations and other business enterprises — with provisions to ensure the prevention of human rights violations, access to justice, the primacy of human rights over trade and investment agreements, protection of human rights defenders, inclusion of a gender perspective and strong enforcement mechanisms.
- Engage constructively in UN treaty discussions to ensure the protection of human rights defenders and a strong gender analysis is embedded in the treaty.
- Attend and participate in the Open Ended Intergovernmental Working Group to elaborate a legally binding treaty to regulate transnational corporations.
- Act as member of the European Union to encourage the EU to engage constructively in the UN treaty negotiations.
- Adopt mandatory human rights due diligence to ensure businesses respect human rights – across business activities and business relationships related to supply, export, services, insurance, finance and investment, reinforcing the whole value chain approach.
- Implement an effective Irish National Plan on Business and Human Rights, based on a comprehensive gender analysis.
- Ensure the Irish National Plan on Business and Human Rights aligns with the national plan to implement the sustainable development goals (SDGs).
- Ensure that business partners for sustainable development have made a clear and demonstrable commitment to the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, and uphold these principles in efforts to reach the SDGs.
- As member of the European Union work to ensure the removal of the investor-state dispute settlement provisions from existing trade and investment agreements, and do not conclude any such agreements in the future.
- Ensure the primacy of human rights is provided for and fully implemented in all trade and investment agreements to which Ireland is a party.
- Conduct human rights impact assessments prior to concluding trade and investment agreements, and provide for the suspension or amendment of contractual provisions where these have proved a risk to human rights.
- Facilitate the passage of The Control of Economic Activity (Occupied Territories) Bill 2018 through Dáil Éireann and enshrine it into legislation.
- Ensure that the publication of the UN Database of companies operating in Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem occurs as planned, and support the ongoing resourcing and updating of the database following its initial publication.
- Ensure that the contribution of Irish businesses to advance the climate transition are accompanied by mandatory human rights due diligence and environmental impact assessments in order to avoid further violations of fundamental rights.
Trócaire are to be commended for this concerted engagement on business and human rights, and for drawing the connections between Ireland and the impact on human rights by corporate activity globally. The campaign is one the first of its kind in Ireland and symbolic of the growing engagement by Irish civil society with the issue of corporate accountability at the international level.