Ireland, Business and Human Rights ... from Syria to Sweden

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

NUI Galway conference to address issues arising for Ireland under new United Nations Framework on Business and Human Rights

Human rights concerns arising from business activities are the subject of a conference in NUI Galway on Saturday, 24 March. The event, which will look specifically at the implications for Ireland of a recent United Nations initiative, will be hosted by NUI Galway’s Irish Centre for Human Rights and School of Law.

‘Ireland and the United Nation’s Framework for Business and Human Rights’ will examine the duty of the State to protect human rights from violation by companies. In 2011, the United Nations adopted Professor John Ruggie’s Framework for Business and Human Rights, which also emphasises a corporate responsibility to respect human rights and the need to strengthen remedies to respond to violations of human rights by business.

This UN framework provides guidance for States such as Ireland, although many aspects of its practical impacts on issues such as Irish businesses operating abroad have yet to be ascertained. Ireland represents an obvious case study in this context, given the presence of numerous multinational corporations, increasing privatisation of public services and allegations of corporate involvement in human rights violations both in and outside of Ireland. 

Dr Shane Darcy of NUI Galway’s Irish Centre for Human Rights, is one of the conference organisers: “This area is particularly relevant at the moment given the recent implication of Irish technology companies in censorship and repression in Syria. There is a need to move beyond a voluntary corporate social responsibility approach and for a greater focus on the State’s obligation at home and abroad with regard to human rights and business. So far, we are seeing many shortcomings with regard to Ireland when it comes to corporate violations of human rights.”

The conference will feature international case studies, with NUI Galway’s Dr Tony Royle using a Swedish company to present on multinational corporations in a talk called the ‘IKEA Way in Retail’. Professor Anita Ramasastry from the University of Washington will discuss ‘Lessons from Civil Litigation in the US’, while Dr Ciara Hackett from NUI Galway’s School of Law will chair a panel on ‘Migrant Workers, Forced Labour and Trafficking’.

Other leading international and national researchers will present papers on topics such as corporate accountability for oversees activities, legislative shortcomings in Ireland related to business and human rights, the rights of migrant workers, and company strategies for addressing human rights.

The conference will be of particular interest to those who are involved in policy making and implementation with regard to business and human rights, academics, researchers, NGOs, advocates in the field of corporate social responsibility and corporate governance and students. Conference fees are €20, with a discounted rate of €10 for students, covering entrance to all the seminars and presentations, together with lunch and coffee. To register online for the event please visit www.conference.ie

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Author: Marketing and Communications Office, NUI Galway
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