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Next week Ireland needs to speak up for corporate accountability at the UN

Around the world, people’s human rights are being trampled on by corporations in the pursuit of profit. Next week, Ireland has the opportunity to speak up on the world stage for international action on corporate accountability. Trócaire activists are urging Ireland to support new global rules to make businesses respect human rights.

Trócaire activist Tony Devlin travelled to Geneva in 2019 to put pressure on the Irish government to take action on corporate accountability. Photo : Jeannie McCann / Trócaire Trócaire activist Tony Devlin travelled to Geneva in 2019 to put pressure on the Irish government to take action on corporate accountability. Photo : Jeannie McCann / Trócaire

Homes destroyed, rivers polluted, forests cut down. Around the world, people’s human rights are being trampled on by corporations in the pursuit of profit.

The rush for natural resources by big business has resulted in misery for many communities around the world. Those that stand up to defend their communities from corporate exploitation often face violence for doing so.

This is why urgent action is needed to make businesses respect human rights in their operations overseas. Next week marks a crucial point for international action on corporate accountability. Nation states will discuss the latest draft of this agreement (Treaty) at the United Nations in Geneva next week.

A global set of rules for business could be a game changer, like the convention on Torture and other international agreements. This is why Trócaire activists have written to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Simon Coveney. They are urging Ireland to champion a new agreement to plug the gaps in international law which are allowing some big businesses to violate human rights.

Trócaire activists ask Ireland to Speak Up

Over the past eighteen months, the activists have engaged in Trócaire’s Business and Human Rights campaign. Many have been inspired to act after meeting Trócaire partners and human rights defenders.

Deirdre Davis from Co. Meath said, “A few months ago, I had the privilege of meeting Bertha Cáceres, a young indigenous woman and human rights activist from Honduras. Bertha’s mother was shot dead because she dared to stand up to a powerful big business who sought to construct a hydro-electric dam which would divert the water supply away from local communities.”

A small number of activists also observed the Treaty negotiations at the UN in Geneva last October. Gertrude Cotter from Cork said, “In Geneva, we met human rights defenders who inspired us all. It is shocking to hear about the way defenders are treated by corporations and states to allow businesses to increase profits. It makes a difference when we hear about individual stories. It makes us see our common humanity and imagine ourselves in such circumstances.”

Trócaire activists with the Irish Ambassador to the UN in Geneva, Michael Gaffey, in 2019 to urge Ireland to support a UN binding treaty on Business and Human Rights. Photo : Jeannie McCann / Trócaire Trócaire activists with the Irish Ambassador to the UN in Geneva, Michael Gaffey, in 2019 to urge Ireland to support a UN binding treaty on Business and Human Rights. Photo : Jeannie McCann / Trócaire

‘Growing repression and violence’

Global Witness recently reported that last year saw the highest number of killings of environmental and land defenders to date – four people were murdered every week.

“That is simply extraordinary… I am extremely worried about the growing repression and violence being faced by communities and individuals who are trying to stop corporate developments that negatively impact on their community,” said Gertrude.

Last year, the activists met with the Irish Ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, Michael Gaffey. Tony Devlin from Dublin said, “We presented a petition signed by more than 8,000 concerned Irish citizens and urged the Ambassador to advocate for a greater European Union involvement in promoting the proposed Treaty. Since then it’s gratifying to see that Ireland has stepped up its involvement, joining other EU countries in preparing a position paper on the draft Treaty.”

Whilst welcoming the progress made, Gráinne O’Callaghan from Dublin urged Ireland to go further. “I have heard the stories, I have met the people and I have shared the heartbreak of their exploitation. As Ireland has a reputation as a champion of human rights, I sincerely hope that we will contribute meaningfully to this next session of negotiations, and indeed, that we will contribute meaningfully to further develop and enhance this Treaty.”

Bertie Ó hAinmhire from Co. Galway said, “I request that Ireland positions ourselves as a country in favour of a strong Treaty. Business and human rights is an area that I believe needs strong leadership. We have to stand up for strong environmental standards and human rights. I believe that Ireland can and should make a difference.”

 

 

3 things you can do right now:

  1. Share our Twitter post to put pressure on Ireland to speak up next week
  2. Read our explainer : why do we need a Treaty on Business & Human Rights?
  3. Join Trócaire’s community of activists

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