Tuesday, 24 September 2019

Ceisteanna (61, 62, 67, 72)

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

61. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the input and involvement of Ireland in the draft international treaty on business and human rights to be discussed at the fifth session of the open-ended intergovernmental working group in Geneva in October 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38282/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Ruth Coppinger

Ceist:

62. Deputy Ruth Coppinger asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade further to Parliamentary Question No. 147 of 26 March 2019, if Ireland will be represented at the fifth intergovernmental conference of the open-ended intergovernmental working group on transnational corporations and other business enterprises with respect to human rights which takes place in October 2019 in Geneva; his views on a treaty regarding human rights and transnational corporations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38293/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Niall Collins

Ceist:

67. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade his views on the international treaty on business and human rights; if a representative will attend the fifth session of negotiations in Geneva in October 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38298/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Jim O'Callaghan

Ceist:

72. Deputy Jim O'Callaghan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade his plans to engage with the fifth session of the open-ended intergovernmental working group in Geneva in respect of its discussions on a proposed international treaty on business and human rights; the stance Ireland plans to take if attending; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38886/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 61, 62, 67 and 72 together.

The question of a legally binding treaty to regulate the activities of transnational corporations and other business enterprises has been under consideration by the Inter-Governmental Working Group on Transnational Corporations and other Business Enterprises. The Group was established on foot of a Resolution adopted by the Human Rights Council in 2014, led by a number of developing countries, including Ecuador and South Africa. Four sessions of the Group have taken place to date.

Notwithstanding our serious concerns about the way in which its work has been conducted, Ireland is among those countries which favours participation in the annual sessions of the Inter-Governmental Working Group. We also believe that all stakeholders, including civil society, trade unions and business, should be enabled to participate and are concerned by reports that they may be excluded from the next session which will take place in October in Geneva. Ecuador has circulated a revised draft treaty in advance of this meeting which contains some positive developments compared to an earlier version presented in 2018. At this stage it is foreseen that the EU will attend the forthcoming session and, while welcoming the improvements in the draft, will signal that it is not in a position to enter into detailed negotiations pending completion of a comprehensive analysis. It is likely however 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.