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Our challenge is to harmonise economic growth with protection of human rights


Ensuring that economic growth does not impact negatively on human rights is a challenge facing businesses and governments globally, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Charlie Flanagan, told an audience of 300 business leaders, human rights advocates and academics today.

Minister Flanagan was addressing the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s Forum on Human Rights, which takes place in Dublin Castle today. Representatives from Google, Marks & Spencer and CRH will address the forum, as will Emily Logan, Chief Commissioner of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission and representatives from the American Chamber of Commerce, Amnesty International, Trócaire and the United Nations.

Delivering the keynote address, Minister Flanagan said:

“The changing global environment poses new challenges and threats to the universality of human rights. We see on a daily basis how human rights violations hamper development, create instability and lead to conflict. All of us – individual, business and State - have a responsibility to defend and protect human rights.

“Forty percent of the hundred largest economic entities in the world are not States, but corporations. Across business sectors, companies operate in an increasingly globalized environment and directly shape the daily lives and opportunities of people around the world. We must therefore pay attention to the power of corporations to impact on broader social issue.”

He also recognised the assistance the Government could provide to Irish companies, saying:

“Ireland is now well on its way to economic recovery. Growth of 4.7 per cent is forecast for 2014, the highest growth rate in many years. The performance of our exporting industries – both indigenous and foreign-owned multinationals – has been the major driver of economic growth. Export levels are at an all-time high. Ireland has a pro-business environment; we are ranked as the Best Country in the World for Business. We are proud of the role that our enterprise sector has played in our economic recovery.

“The challenge now is to harmonize economic growth with the protection of human rights. Many companies recognise the moral imperative to respect human rights and it is the role of the State to assist Irish companies in meeting human rights standards in today’s fiercely competitive business environment.”

The Forum is discussing how to implement the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. The principles state that governments have the duty to protect human rights, companies have a responsibility to respect rights, and both governments and companies must work to provide a remedy when violations occur. This is known as the “Protect, Respect, and Remedy” framework. The forum is an opportunity for businesses, organisations working on human rights and others to discuss the principles.

Ireland is a member of the Human Rights Council for the 2013-2015 term.

Further details on the Forum can be found at the Department’s website.

Read Minister Flanagans Address to the Forum.




Press Office
7 November 2014