Wednesday, 18 November 2020
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
83. To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if the Government will actively support and contribute to the development of an ambitious, effective and binding UN treaty on business and human rights with a strong gender perspective and inclusion of human rights defenders; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37204/20]
84. To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will follow the lead of other EU member states, such as France, and directly address the negotiation sessions on priority areas in the UN treaty on business and human rights; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37205/20]
85. To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will provide details on the way the constructive position of Ireland on the UN treaty on business and human rights is being developed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37206/20]
86. To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will commit to take action within the EU to ensure a clear, constructive negotiation mandate for the next OEIGWG session to be held in 2021; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37207/20]
87. To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will report on the work being undertaken to develop domestic legislation for mandatory, gender responsive human rights and environmental due diligence legislation here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37208/20]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 83 to 87, inclusive, together.
The sixth session of the Open Ended Inter-Governmental Working Group on Transnational Corporations and other Business Enterprises took place from 26th-30th October 2020. The European Union delivered a statement and separately raised specific concerns in relation to the draft text on behalf of Ireland and other Member States.
The EU statement welcomed some of the changes in the latest draft of the Legally Binding Instrument; highlighted further necessary changes; and outlined the many measures underway within the EU and across Member States to give greater protection to human rights in the context of business activities. France was the only EU Member State to intervene and all statements are publicly available on the website of the UN Human Rights Council.
As stated previously, Ireland remains open to looking at options for progress on a legally binding treaty. With regard to scope, we believe that all economic operators, whether transnational or purely domestic, should be treated in a non-discriminatory manner. We would also wish to see essential human rights principles, including gender equality and protection of human rights defenders, reflected in any possible instrument which should reaffirm the universality, indivisibility and interdependence of human rights and stress the primary responsibility of States under existing human rights obligations to protect against human rights violations.
As I have previously stated, any new initiative should build on, rather than duplicate, existing measures such as the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises and the ILO Tripartite Declaration of Principles Concerning Multinational Enterprises and Social Policy. Above all it should be rooted in the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights to which Ireland is firmly committed. We have provided input on all of these issues during deliberations at EU level to develop the EU position in advance of the latest meeting of the OEWG. I will consider whether making an intervention at national level at the next meeting in 2021, in addition to contributing to the EU position and statement, could be useful in further highlighting these priorities.
Ultimately, if it is to achieve its objectives, any legally binding instrument should enjoy broad support among UN Member States to ensure its effectiveness as well as international coherence in the framework of business and human rights.
Ireland is one of a small number of UN Member States which have adopted National Plans on Business and Human Rights. I am also pleased to note that the forthcoming EU Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy will contain strong commitments in the area of Business and Human Rights.
Let me therefore assure the Deputy that we will continue to play a constructive role to advance the business and human rights agenda both within the EU and the UN. My officials in Dublin and Geneva have also met with the Irish Coalition on Business and Human Rights and this engagement will continue.
In respect of the potential for domestic legislation, I am aware that the European Union Commissioner for Justice is preparing a legislative initiative for 2021, which may introduce mandatory human rights and environmental due diligence across value chains. While these policy matters fall outside of the remit of my own Department, my officials are following these important developments closely.