In March 2015, FIDH and its Irish member organisation Free Legal Advice Centres (FLAC) submitted a joint contribution to Ireland’s consultation in the framework of the development of a National Action Plan (NAP) for the implementation of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs). Ireland launched this consultation in the aftermath of the declaration of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe (16 April 2014) and the resolution of the UN Human Rights Council (A/HRC/RES/26/22, 27 June 2014), calling states to take steps to implement the UNGPs Guiding Principles, including by developing a NAP.
FIDH and FLAC welcomed this process of stakeholder consultation and the opportunity to submit their recommendations. Such plan should be seen as a part of a broader strategy to actively implement the United Nations Guiding Principles and to support the work of the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights.
FIDH and FLAC’s recommendations for Ireland’s NAP addressed both the issues of process and content. They advised the NAP to be developed through an inclusive, transparent and continuous consultation process, and by taking measures to ensure human rights defenders’ participation. Defining clear and detailed objectives and establishing monitoring and evaluation mechanisms were highlighted as key elements to ensure effective implementation of the NAP.
With regard to recommendations to Ireland on the content of the NAP, FIDH and FLAC have emphasized three key elements in line with the “Protect, Respect, and Remedy” framework, which can be summarised as follows :
1. The state’s duty to protect human rights, including doing no harm and strengthening policy coherence
Ireland has an obligation to protect human rights and prevent adverse impacts caused by third parties, including business enterprises. This protection obligation includes enterprises operating abroad, as well entities linked to the State. Ireland must ensure policy coherence across government departments and agencies and in trade relations.
2. The corporate responsibility to respect human rights
Ireland should ensure that the existing legal framework contributes to and enables businesses’ respect for human rights. Ireland must ensure that businesses conduct human rights due diligence throughout their operations, including by identifying risks linked to certain zones, sectors and products. Finally, Irish authorities should encourage business transparency with regards to structure, activities, policies and impacts of activities, and guarantee the right to access relevant information.
3. Ensuring access to effective remedies for victims of business-related human rights abuses
The State’s duty to protect requires that victims of human rights violations involving Irish companies can have access to effective remedies, including victims living abroad. This notably entails guaranteeing access to Irish courts, both in criminal and civil matters, and reinforcing of the OECD National Contact Point’s effectiveness.