As the sixth session of the Open-Ended Intergovernmental Working Group on a business and human rights treaty gets underway in Geneva next week, there have been calls for the Irish government to become more involved and to engage constructively in this treaty-making process. Trócaire has called on Ireland to speak up and to stand on the side of those “under attack from big business”:
The Irish Congress of Trade Unions has written to the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Simon Coveney, this week asking him to “urge the European Union to adopt a negotiation mandate in order for the bloc to fully engage in the Binding Treaty process”. Congress explains why it supports a binding treaty:
With the COVID-19 pandemic once again exposing the fragility of global supply chains and business models built on non-standard forms of employment and informality, the Binding Treaty represents a unique opportunity to end the impunity for corporate human rights abuses. The treaty, if adopted, would help to hold business accountable for the human rights violations they commit as well as to provide victims an effective legal remedy. However, it is incumbent on Ireland and the EU to actively participate in the treaty process to make it a reality.
As readers of the blog will be aware, Ireland has not been an advocate for a business and human rights treaty, expressing a general preference for attention to be focused on national implementation of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. That being said, the Irish Government has not disavowed the treaty process and Minister Coveney said he is “open to looking at options for progress on a legally binding treaty”, which he believes should be rooted in the Guiding Principles (see Claire Methven O’Brien’s proposal for a treaty based on the UNGPs here).
As some of the specific European Union and Irish concerns regarding the scope of the instrument, as set out in the previous treaty drafts, have been addressed to an extent in the latest version, it will of interest to see how both Ireland and the EU engage next week at the sixth session of the Intergovernmental Working Group. Civil society are certainly hoping for a much improved engagement compared with previous sessions.