I propose to take Questions Nos. 367 to 369, inclusive, together.
Under Ireland’s inaugural National Plan on Business and Human Rights, the multi-stakeholder Implementation Group developed Guidelines on Business and Human Rights for business enterprises. These Guidelines have been published on the Department of Foreign Affairs’ website and members of the Implementation Group including Ibec, Chambers Ireland, the Irish Exporters Association, and Business in the Community Ireland, have promoted the Guidelines. Following the launch of the Guidelines, my Department co-hosted practical webinars for businesses, together with partners including the Trinity Centre for Social Innovation and Shift. As the Guidelines were published less than eight months ago, it is premature to fully assess their impact at this time.
It is my understanding that the European Commission is planning to propose a legislative initiative to introduce mandatory human rights and environmental due diligence next year. I consider this a positive development in the context of the implementation of the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. However, as the Deputy will be aware, the regulation of businesses is a matter for the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment.
Regarding the potential development of a United Nations legally binding treaty in the area of Business and Human Rights, the European Union holds many of the competences in this policy area. Accordingly, Ireland is engaging in the process through European Union structures in Brussels and Geneva. At the most recent negotiation session in respect of a potential treaty, the EU offered to work with the drafters to address concerns with the current draft text.
Globally, the European Union and its Member States are leaders in implementing the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. The EU Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy 2020-2024 contains a suite of measures in the area of Business and Human Rights. Ireland strongly supports these initiatives and has shared the lessons learned from the review of our own National Plan at EU level. This review was completed earlier this year and noted by Government at its meeting of 7 December 2021.