The Department of Foreign Affairs has launched its National Plan on Business and Human Rights 2017-2020 which promises 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 and to being one of the best countries in the world in which to do business”.
The first section of the Plan focuses primarily on international frameworks such as the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, as well as EU Council conclusions which reaffirmed the EU’s active engagement in preventing human rights abuses, calling on all Member States to develop a national action plan emphasising that corporate respect for human rights is indispensable to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. This section also looks at other international initiatives such as the Recommendations of the Council of Europe, and introduces the development of the National Plan.
Section two looks at the currently operational legislative and regulatory framework. This includes outlines of Ireland’s employment rights, anti-corruption laws, equality laws, anti-trafficking laws, data protection legislation and others, including reference to relevant EU Regulations and Directives.
The third section addresses the actions that are to be actively undertaken by the Irish Government during the implementation of this Plan. This section sets out 8 new commitments which the Government has set for itself, along with time frames for the completion of said commitments. In addition to ensuring coherence with other national plans and forums, the Plan’s main commitments involve commissioning a study to conduct a comprehensive baseline assessment of the legislative and regulatory framework pertaining to human rights and business, and establishing an implementation group consisting of representatives from government, the business community and civil society which will meet twice a year to evaluate the implementation of the Plan.
The Plan further sets out initial priorities for the Business and Human Rights Implementation Group which highlight developing practical advice for companies, raising awareness of human rights, encouraging and supporting due diligence, encouraging engagement with human rights standards and processes and sharing best practice. The priorities will also look at access to remedies, including exploring international best practice operational level grievance mechanisms for individuals and communities adversely impacted, and reviewing how best to ensure remedy for potential victims of overseas abuses by Irish companies.
This initial Plan takes a voluntary approach to business responsibility for human rights, and emphasises that the Guiding Principles are not legally binding.
Click here to read the National Plan on Business and Human Rights.