Ireland: Consult and protect human rights defenders through National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights

02.03.2015

Ireland should consult closely with human rights defenders in developing a new national action plan on business and human rights and ensure the plan contains measures to support and protect their vital work to promote corporate respect for human rights and corporate accountability for violations, ISHR said today.

(Geneva) - Ireland should consult closely with human rights defenders in developing a new national action plan on business and human rights and ensure the plan contains measures to support and protect their vital work to promote corporate respect for human rights and corporate accountability for violations, the International Service for Human Rights said today.

In a submission to Ireland’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, following its call for input on the development of a new national plan on business and human rights (NAP), ISHR said Ireland has an opportunity and responsibility to develop international best practice in both the process for developing, and the substance of, the NAP. 

‘Ireland has an impressive track record in supporting human rights defenders and measures for their protection, both bilaterally and in international fora’, said Michael Ineichen of ISHR.

‘Ireland now has the potential to become first-in-class in the area of business and human rights by ensuring human rights defenders are at the centre of its plan, both in design and process. The plan should set out concrete, measurable actions that Ireland will take to support corporate accountability activists and land and environment defenders, both at home and abroad. It should also clearly spell out the obligations of Irish business to engage, respect and protect human rights defenders, both in Ireland and through their extraterritorial operations,’ Mr Ineichen said.

Human rights defenders play a critical role both in promoting corporate respect for human rights and in identifying, preventing, mitigating and ensuring accountability for corporate human rights abuses. Despite this, around the world, there are reports of increasing attacks, threats and harassment against human rights defenders who advocate for corporate accountability. In particular, human rights defenders face significant risks to their lives and livelihoods on a daily basis as they work under the threat of extrajudicial killings, arbitrary detention, restrictions and attacks on the right to protest, and judicial harassment as a result of their efforts to defend human rights in the face of harmful business activities.

‘Adopting a human rights defenders’ perspective in the development of the Irish NAP is essential to ensure that the plan serves to enhance the protection of human rights defenders and contributes to a more safe and enabling environment for their work.’ Mr Ineichen said.

In the process of drafting its national plan, Ireland should clearly identify the role of human rights defenders in the implementation and follow-up of specific action points within the NAP. This could be achieved by ensuring the maximum level of transparency; for example by publishing drafts of the NAP, summary reports on its implementation, and engaging with a broad range of human rights defenders and civil society actors for their ongoing comment and input.

The ISHR submission recommends further that:

  • Ireland develop and implement its National Action Plan based on the Guiding Principles read in conjunction with the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders. This requires the inclusion of concrete policies and measures to protect and support human rights defenders, and should pay particular attention to the specific protection needs of certain groups of defenders who are vulnerable or most at risk.
  • Ireland must use the opportunity of drafting its NAP to take further steps to create and maintain a safe and enabling environments for HRDs, in line with the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, in both Ireland and the host states of corporations domiciled in Ireland.
  • Civil society organisations, home and host State affected communities, human rights experts and human rights defenders must be fully consulted in the development, implementation and review of the Irish NAP, including through Irish embassies in countries where human rights defenders are most at risk.

The NAP itself should:

  1. Explicitly recognise the vital role of civil society and human rights defenders in monitoring the implementation of the UN Guiding Principles and acknowledge the particular risks they often face as a result of their work;
  2. Reiterate the State duty to ensure safe and enabling environments for human rights defenders working in relation to business and human rights, in line with the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders;
  3. Detail the steps and measures that Ireland will take to encourage businesses to fully consult with civil society organisations and human rights defenders in the design and implementation of projects, in order to guarantee free, prior and informed consent of affected communities;
  4. Reflect a commitment to provide financial support to civil society organisations to promote protection of human rights defenders who are actively engaged on issues relating to business and human rights; and
  5. Encourage and support the review of legislation that restricts and threatens human rights defenders, and the adoption of specific laws and policies that recognise and protect human rights defenders and their legitimate work, as well as laws and policies that guarantee free, prior and informed consent of communities affected by business. These processes should be undertaken both in Ireland and in States in which Ireland has diplomatic representation or business interests or operations, with the participation of civil society and taking into account international good practice.

In relation to business, the NAP should:

  1. Clearly articulate the obligation of corporations to respect and support human rights defenders and their work, including by not interfering directly or indirectly with their exercise of the human rights to freedom of expression, association, assembly and protest, and foresee appropriate monitoring mechanisms and sanctions to enforce this obligation;
  2. Promote consultation with and the protection of human rights defenders in host States;
  3. Encourage businesses to publicly support human rights defenders and their protection, including by supporting State action in that regard;
  4. Encourage business to fully consult with civil society organisations and human rights defenders, including in the design and implementation of projects, in conducing human rights impact assessments, developing due diligence policies, and in the design of grievance mechanisms; and
  5. Encourage investors to consult with human rights defenders and ensure that investors do not invest in projects that result in violations of human rights or undermine the rights of human rights defenders and affected communities, including their rights to freedom of expression, assembly and of association.

Contact: Michael Ineichen, Programme Manager Corporate Accountability, on m.ineichen@ishr.ch or + 41 78 827 77 86.

Photo: Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Charles Flanagan, addresses a forum on the topic of business and human rights in November 2014

Category:

Region
  • Europe
Topic
  • Corporate accountability
  • Human rights defenders
Mechanism
  • National HRDs laws/policies
Country
  • Ireland