Tuesday, 8 October 2019

Questions (17)

Seán Fleming


17. Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade when Ireland will sign an international treaty on business and human rights; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40675/19]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

The question of a legally binding treaty to regulate the activities of transnational corporations and other business enterprises has been under consideration by an open-ended inter-governmental working group on transnational corporations and other business enterprises, which was established on foot of a resolution adopted by the Human Rights Council in 2014 and has held four sessions to date.

The fifth session of the Inter-Governmental Working Group will take place in Geneva from 14 to 18 October and will consider, for the first time, the draft text of a legally binding instrument to regulate the activities of transnational corporations and other business enterprises, which has been circulated by Ecuador, the chair of the Working Group. The EU will attend the forthcoming session and, while welcoming the improvements in the draft, will signal that it needs to complete a comprehensive analysis of the text before entering into detailed negotiations. It is also likely that the EU will avail of the opportunity to pose a number of questions on issues of concern.

Ireland is open to looking at options for progress on a legally binding treaty. With regard to its 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 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.

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. On this point, I would note that of the 22 countries which to date have adopted National Plans on Business and Human Rights, 16, including Ireland, are EU Member States. We would like to see any new initiative 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 we believe that it should be rooted in the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. In this regard, we are of the view that the UN Working Party on Business and Human Rights and the annual UN Forum on Business and Human Rights provide appropriate fora for consideration of any new initiatives.