Seanad debates

Thursday, 20 December 2018

Finance (African Development (Bank and Fund) and Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2018: Committee and Remaining Stages

 

1:15 pm

Photo of Alice Mary HigginsAlice Mary Higgins (Independent) | Oireachtas source

I move amendment No. 2:

In page 7, after line 33, to insert the following:“Report on National Plan on Business and Human Rights

9. The Minister shall, within 12 months of the passing of this Act, lay a report before both Houses of the Oireachtas on Ireland’s participation in the African Development Bank and Fund and its compatibility with Ireland’s National Plan on Business and Human Rights, including a consideration of the investments of corporations based in Ireland.”.

This amendment relates to Ireland's national plan on business and human rights which the Minister of State has referenced. Ireland has a national plan on business and human rights and there is a concern that we need to follow that through into our indirect investment and into what we are doing in the African Development Bank.

This is all about policy consistency. Ireland rightly has a reputation within the UN and elsewhere for supporting civil society. It is important to note that civil society in both the issues of development and human rights has raised concerns about the African Development Bank and Fund. I want to ensure that Ireland, as an investor in this fund, is exercising a force and pressure for responsiveness within the fund. I am referencing the 2018 civil society forum of the African Development Bank at which, after an extensive debate by civil society across a number of African countries, a concern was raised that the development strategy was based largely on private sector led industrialisation that risked failing to build equitable, inclusive transformation that would be responsive to the desires and aspirations of African people and their human rights rather than the interests of transnational corporations. These are concerns from African civil society. If we are engaging as investors, we also need to engage in the full discussion.

The message from the civil society forum at that time was to urge the African Development Bank to give priority to small and medium enterprises, SMEs, an issue with which we are familiar an Ireland. The message was to ensure that social and environmental protections were not sacrificed at the cost of high-scale investment in private investment in the industrialise Africa agenda and involve civil society in the civil society organisation engagement framework and ensure implementation under that. There is also a need to consider the bank's gender policies. It is worth noting that social science research has highlighted concerns with the African Development Bank and women's health and the impact of structural adjustment on measures through the bank on maternal mortality.

We are small investors in the bigger picture of this fund, but the fund is a huge player in charting the development paths and options in many African counties. The same issues that we debate in these Houses are the issues being debated by citizens in every country. Like us, they want to know that there is accountability over human rights and social and environmental considerations. Investment in Africa is not simply a matter of moving figures around. It is not simply a matter of quarterly returns, or the percentage increase, or what return there is on investments. If we are investors, let us be ethical investors.

My amendment simply suggests, in light of the national plan on business and human rights, that the Minister would lay a report before both Houses of the Oireachtas around Ireland's participation in the African Development Bank, its compatibility with Ireland's national plan on business and human rights and, in particular, I would add, considering the investments of corporations based in Ireland. I raised in the last debate concerns about, for example, San Leon Energy which is operating in an inappropriate way in terms of UN business and human rights measures in the Western Sahara at the moment. My concerns were not addressed in the last debate. We have a responsibility. We do not want this money routed to companies and corporations, possibly Irish ones, without proper scrutiny.

I hope the Minister will accept the amendment. If he cannot, I hope he will indicate how the African Development Bank and other indirect investments in which Ireland is participating relate to the national plan on business and human rights.

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