Ireland’s National Plan on Business and Human Rights- Next steps for business

Jan 24, 2017

By Emma Kerins, International Affairs Executive

Following several years of consultation, the Human Rights Unit of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade launched Ireland’s National Action Plan to implement the UN Guiding Principle on Business and Human Rights.

Speaking at the launch (15/11/2017), Minister Simon Coveney called for promotion of responsible business practices at home and overseas by all Irish business enterprises in line with Ireland’s human rights commitment.

Chambers Ireland has actively engaged with the Department throughout the initial consultation process, jointly hosting co-hosted a workshop with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade on Business and Human Rights. The workshop was part of an ongoing consultation with stakeholders by the Department as it drafts a National Plan on Business and Human Rights as required by the UN Guiding Principles. 

Responsible behaviour and ‘doing the right thing’ has been shown to be good for business in the long run. We believe that the promotion of these benefits should be the priority of the National Action Plan. In 2016, as part of the consultation on the draft National Action Plan, Chambers Ireland made a submission to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade highlighting the following;

  • The focus of the NAP should be to promote dialogue between the state, business and civil society, while educating businesses about human rights, the potential impacts of their operations, and what companies can do to ensure that the Guiding Principles are implemented across the their operations.
  • Government should conduct a baseline study on legislative and regulatory framework pertaining to business and human rights as it applies in Ireland is also welcome as it will give us all a better idea of where all stakeholders stand, where the gaps are and what needs to be done in the future.
  • Government should create a tool-kit for business, that includes templates and policy descriptions accessible to small businesses and begin an education process around human rights due diligence as appropriate to their size, the nature and context of operations and the severity of the risk of adverse human rights impacts.
  • Government should increase its support the use of mediation and ADR to resolve disputes that may arise between business and stakeholders.

Following the publication of the plan, we broadly welcome the Department’s approach and the commitment to develop toolkits for business and to support the use of mediation and ADR to resolve disputes.

Looking ahead, the Government has committed to taking the following steps

  1. Establish a ‘Business and Human Rights implementation group’within three months of the plan, which will consist of representatives from government, the business community and civil society, and will meet twice a year to review the implementation of the National Plan over the first three years
  2. Commission a study to conduct a comprehensive baseline assessment of the legislative and regulatory framework pertaining to business and human rights as it applies in Ireland, to be completed within six months of the plan
  3. Convene a forum on Business and Human Rights within two years of the adoption of the National Plan. this will bring together stakeholders including government, the business community and civil society and will facilitate the exchange of views on progress in delivering on the National Plan
  4. Ensure coherence between the National Plan on Corporate social Responsibility and the National Plan on Business and Human Rights, including by promoting cooperation between the Business and Human Rights implementation Working group and the Corporate social Responsibility stakeholder Forum
  5. Develop a practical toolkit on business and human rights for public and private entities within 12 months to assist them in their human rights due diligence
  6. Encourage business representative bodies to provide examples, templates and case studies to help support companies in their efforts to develop human rights focused policies and reporting initiatives
  7. Encourage and facilitate the sharing of best practice on human rights due diligence, including effective supply chain audits.
  8. Create a fact sheet on the OEDD anti-Bribery Convention, the criminal offences in Irish law on bribery, the reporting systems in place for reporting suspicions of foreign corruption and the protections provided by the Protected disclosures act to be distributed by enterprise Ireland to all Irish companies engaged in trade missions
  9. Engage with business representative bodies to promote and strengthen mediation as a viable option when businesses and their stakeholders are engaged in disputes.

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