Thursday, 5 March 2020
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
55. To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if his attention has been drawn to a report by an organisation (details supplied) on the Cerrejón mine in Colombia titled Undermining Human Rights, Ireland, the ESB and Cerrejón Coal; his views on its findings; and if, considering the National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights, he has discussed the findings of the report with the ESB. [3883/20]
I am aware of the report mentioned by the Deputy. While I have not discussed the details of this specific report with ESB, I wrote to them in September 2019 requesting further information regarding their sourcing of coal from Cerrejón.
I received a response in October 2019 in which the ESB outlined a recent assessment of the mine carried out by Bettercoal. Bettercoal is an organisation established by major coal buyers to ensure coal is being sourced via responsible supply chains, which the ESB joined in 2014. This assessment indicates that the Cerrejón mine's operating principles are essentially in line with the Bettercoal best practice code. Bettercoal has made a number of recommendations to Cerrejón for improvement and increased compliance, on which I understand that the mine has been actively engaging.
My Department has been monitoring issues surrounding the Cerrejón mine in Colombia, including its reported negative impact on the environment and local communities, on an ongoing basis. Our new Embassy in Bogotá has been actively engaging on this issue and our Ambassador to Colombia led an Embassy visit to La Guajira, where the mine is located, in Septembner 2019. I have reported to the Dáil previously on this visit.
In respect of the National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights, the need for effective human rights due diligence mechanisms is one of the issues under consideration by the Business and Human Rights Implementation Group.
The Group is looking at a variety of options, including mandatory human rights due diligence mechanisms, in line with similar provisions in other countries. I will await the outcome of the Implementation Group's deliberations on this issue before moving forward with specific policy proposals.
56. To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if his attention has been drawn to the fact that a person (details supplied) visited Ireland recently; if important ongoing legal proceedings against some of those involved in their murder is being monitored; and if he has raised the issue with his Honduran counterpart. [3884/20]
Officials at my Department met with Berta Zúñiga Cáceres during her recent visit to Ireland. The meeting was an opportunity to discuss the challenging situation for human rights and environmental defenders in Honduras. Officials also expressed condolences on behalf of my Department to Ms Zúñiga Cáceres on the tragic death of her mother, Berta Cáceres, who was murdered in 2016.
I condemn unreservedly violence perpetrated against those seeking to defend their rights, as well as a culture of impunity where it exists. My Department has been following developments regarding the case brought against a number of individuals who have now been convicted of the murder of Ms Cáceres. I would urge the Honduran Government to continue its efforts to bring those responsible to justice.
I was disappointed therefore by the decision of the Government to not renew the mandate of the OAS-sponsored Mission to Support the Fight Against Corruption and Impunity in Honduras (MACCIH). Ireland fully supports the EU statement issued on 22 January, which stated that the Honduran Government must continue to strengthen anti-corruption efforts, including through legislative reform and the reorganisation of the penal justice system.
Ms Zúñiga Cáceres was joined in her meeting by representatives from Trócaire, which has just launched a report ‘Women Taking the Lead: Defending Human Rights and the Environment’. My Department provides funding to Trócaire in support of its work in Honduras, and other countries in the region.
Trócaire works in partnership with local NGOs in the country and has developed a range of programmes focused on respect for human rights and protection of human rights defenders, resource rights, eradication of violence against women, and disaster risk reduction. Between 2017 and 2018, Trócaire spent over €5.2 million in Honduras, of which over 40% was funded by this Department.
This forms part of the over €7.8m that Ireland provided in funding to civil society organisations working in the country from 2012 to 2018. One of the central priorities supported by this funding has been to ensure that the rights of vulnerable people, victims and survivors of human rights abuses are respected, protected and restored or repaired in a dignified manner.
During Honduras’ most recent UN Universal Periodic Review, Ireland intervened to express its concern at the climate of violence and insecurity in which human rights defenders operate in Honduras, and to recommend that adequate financial and human resources be allocated to ensure the implementation of legislation to protect human rights defenders and journalists.
Following the expansion of Ireland’s diplomatic footprint in Latin America and the Caribbean, Ireland has moved our accreditation to Honduras to our Embassy in Mexico, which will enhance our ability to engage on issues on the ground.
We also regularly discuss the situation in Honduras with our EU partners and engage with the EU delegation in Tegucigalpa. The European Union followed the investigation and observed the trial of those accused of Ms Caceres' murder since its beginning.
Officials at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Dublin, and at our Embassy in Mexico, will continue to monitor events in Honduras closely and to engage with our EU, civil society and international partners on these important issues.