Written answers

Wednesday, 27 February 2019

Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Human Rights

Photo of Maureen O'SullivanMaureen O'Sullivan (Dublin Central, Independent)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

37. To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade his views on an initiative (details supplied); and his plans to ensure that all Irish companies respect the business and human rights initiative in view of the fact that it was a policy led by his Department. [9692/19]

Photo of Simon CoveneySimon Coveney (Cork South Central, Fine Gael)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

I am aware of the initiative to which the Deputy refers, and also about concerns raised by non-governmental organisations regarding mining activities in Colombia. I remain concerned at reports of these activities having a negative impact on local populations, and also on the environment.

The EU Delegation in Bogotá monitors this issue closely and has met with relevant stakeholders, including representatives of affected local communities and other civil society and environmental organisations.

Ireland has just opened its first resident Embassy in Colombia, with Ambassador Alison Milton having presented her credentials last week. This significant step demonstrates this Government’s commitment to developing Ireland’s relationship with Colombia and in particular our commitment to supporting Colombia’s transition to a peaceful post-conflict society, including the vindication and protection of human and social rights. It will greatly enhance our ability to engage on issues on the ground and monitor issues such as the impact of mining activities on local communities.

As the Deputy will be aware, historic strides have been made in Colombia in recent years in the transition to a post-conflict society, and Ireland has been a committed supporter of this process. It is clear that significant challenges remain, such as those highlighted by the initiative mentioned by the Deputy, but Ireland remains committed to supporting the full implementation of the Peace Agreement, and working with all sectors in Colombia to ensure a more peaceful, stable and prosperous future for the Colombian people.

The relationship between business and human rights is fundamental to securing a society that works for all citizens, and this is a priority for me and my Department. In November 2017, my Department launched the National Plan on Business and Human Rights 2017 -2020 to give effect to the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. The aim of the Plan is to promote responsible business practices at home and overseas by all Irish business enterprises in line with Ireland’s commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights globally. The Plan is directed at Government and State agencies, Irish companies operating at home and overseas, and multinational enterprises operating in Ireland.

Since the launch of the Plan, my Department has established the Business and Human Rights Implementation Group, which will oversee the implementation of the UN Guiding Principles in the Irish context over the next three years. Its membership consists of representatives from civil society, the business community, Government and an independent Chairperson. The first meeting of the Implementation Group took place on 16 January 2019. The Implementation Group will be further divided into three sub-groups, which will be tasked with taking forward delivery of key action points under each of the three pillars of the UN Guiding Principles, i.e. the State duty to protect, corporate responsibility to respect and access to remedy.

Ireland is committed to the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms around the world. Officials at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Dublin, and at our new Embassy in Bogotá, will continue to engage on this issue with human rights defenders and civil society organisations active on the ground, and with our EU colleagues.


No comments

Log in or join to post a public comment.