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Business & Human Rights

Protests in Brazil to denounce the indiscriminate burning in the Amazon Credit: Rodrigo Jorda / Shutterstock

How Ireland can act to make big business respect human rights and the environment

 

The corporate race for natural resources has put millions of people and the environment at risk of exploitation and abuse. Last year, 227 land and environmental defenders were murdered – an average of more than four people a week. This made 2020 the most dangerous year on record for people defending their homes, land, livelihoods and ecosystems.

Just 90 companies, including the largest oil, coal and gas companies, are responsible for two thirds of all global carbon emissions to date. This must stop.

Ireland is failing to protect people from abuses by Irish corporations abroad and we need to act now! We are calling on the Government to follow other European countries to introduce legislation to make Irish busineses answerable for their actions in other countries. You can sign our petition here.

Over the past number of years, with support from people across the island of Ireland, Trócaire has been campaigning to hold big business to account for abuse of human rights and the environment. This includes calling for the creation of an International Treaty on Business and Human Rights, which would be a game-changer in helping to end corporate impunity for abuse of people and planet. Our efforts to see the creation of this international treaty are ongoing.

In October 2021, the newly established Irish Coalition on Business and Human Rights – of which Trócaire is a member – launched the “Make it Your Business” report. . The report links Irish companies, including the ESB and AirBnB Ireland, to corporate human rights abuses in low-income countries around the world.

The campaign is calling on the Irish Government to introduce corporate accountability legislation. Legislation that would make it a legal requirement for businesses operating in Ireland, to identify and prevent human rights abuses and environmental damage occurring in their operations, anywhere in the world.  This legislation would also make companies liable for any harm done to communities affected by their activities.

 

 

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Why you need to take action

In rural communities where Trócaire works, access to land, water and forests are essential for life and livelihoods. Big business is acquiring vast amounts of land in these communities for mining, logging and agri-businesses without consulting the communities affected. The quest for profit comes at the expense of livelihoods, human rights and the environment.

Activists who peacefully defend their land and human rights face violent evictions, intimidation, imprisonment and even murder. Women and indigenous peoples are particularly vulnerable to abuse. At least 137 attacks on women activists were recorded last year alone.

247
people

In 2018, at least 247 people globally were killed for protecting their land and the environment.

We live in a globalised world where business knows no borders. Yet international human rights law has not kept pace with how powerful corporations have become. Companies must be accountable if their investments and operations put people and the planet at risk.

The growing levels of violence experienced by communities who peaceful resist the actions of some big businesses stand in stark contrast to the lack of global, corporate accountability.

We live in a globalised world where business knows no borders. Yet international human rights law has not kept pace with how powerful corporations have become. Companies must be accountable if their investments and operations put people and the planet at risk.

The growing levels of violence experienced by communities who peaceful resist the actions of some big businesses stand in stark contrast to the lack of global, corporate accountability.

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How can we bring about change?

Trócaire supports communities on the frontline in a number of ways. We negotiate with local government to obtain land title and provide training so parents can protect themselves and their children from intimidation and violence.

Devastating human rights violations will continue unless voluntary approaches to corporate accountability are replaced with legally binding measures.

Across Ireland, Trócaire engages citizens to demand the Irish and UK Governments:

  • Constructively engage in the process to create an International Binding Treaty on Business and Human Rights. This treaty would be an important step in holding private companies to account for any human rights abuses they are responsible for in the country where their Head Office is based.
  • Introduce legislation domestically which would require Irish/UK registered companies to respect human rights and the environment everywhere they work and hold them to account in the courts if they fail.
  • Proactively protect human rights defenders, with a focus on women defenders.

This campaign is not anti-business. It is about ensuring human rights and the environment are always prioritised over profits.

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Campaign Wins

The Irish and UK governments attended negotiations at the United Nations in Geneva for a binding treaty on Business and Human Rights in October 2019. People concerned about the corporate abuse of power across Ireland campaigned for our governments to be present.

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After many years of campaigning from Trócaire and our partner organisations, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights released a list of companies doing business connected to illegal Israeli settlements.

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Guatemalan activist Abelino Chub Caal was imprisoned on false criminal charges for more than two years for defending an indigenous community’s land rights from big business. He was finally freed in April 2019.

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