Drive to enforce human rights in business

THE GOVERNMENT should require human rights compliance by business for public procurement contracts, State investment and listings…

THE GOVERNMENT should require human rights compliance by business for public procurement contracts, State investment and listings on the Irish Stock Exchange, according to the Irish Centre for Human Rights.

A report by the NUI Galway centre highlights the absence of any Government policy on business and human rights.

It cites Irish technology companies “implicated” in Syrian censorship, the Corrib dispute involving Shell and Statoil, and the working conditions of migrant workers in mushroom picking as examples of “businesses impacting negatively on human rights”.

Other examples highlighted in the report include the treatment of Gama construction workers, and working conditions in the supply chain for Penneys/Primark.

The study, launched yesterday by Prof Michael O’Flaherty, a member of the United Nations Human Rights Committee and chief commissioner of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission, says multinational companies with headquarters in Ireland are also “relevant”.

There has been criticism of Apple’s human rights records in China, it notes.

A UN framework published last year provides guidance for states such as Ireland, it says, although aspects of this “have yet to be put into practice”.

Ireland represents an “obvious case study” in the UN context, given the presence of numerous multinationals, increasing privatisation of public services and allegations of corporate involvement in human rights violations in and outside of Ireland, the authors state.

“State representatives frequently assert Ireland’s commitment to the United Nations and human rights, although the Government has yet to issue a comprehensive policy document on business and human rights,” co-author Dr Shane Darcy says.

Due diligence should be a mandatory requirement underpinned by legislation, the report says.

It advises that the Government should issue a policy response to the UN Framework and Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, and should undertake a review and reform of existing legislation in light of international standards.

It recommends that human rights compliance and reporting by business should be required for public procurement contracts, State investment or listing on the Irish Stock Exchange.

Enterprises domiciled in Ireland should make a policy commitment to respect human rights, incorporate human rights due diligence in their operations, make compliance with human rights a contractual requirement for suppliers, and provide remediation in the event of breaches, it says.