28 Feb

ATD Ireland contributed to the consultation about Ireland’s national Business and Human Rights Plan

The UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights  (GPs BHR) 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.

As a follow-up of the adoption by  the UN of the GPs BHR, the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is developing a National Plan on Business and Human Rights, and seeked consultation with interested individuals and groups, both Irish and international.

In the past few weeks many NGOs contributed to this consultation.  ATD made a submission focusing on the consistency  of the plan to be designed with the UN Guiding Principles on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights.

This work  builds on the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade NGO Forum on Business and Human Rights, which took place in Dublin in November 2014.  At the Forum, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Charlie Flanagan, TD,  said: “It is important for Ireland’s standing internationally and the reputation of Irish companies that we respond to the call from the UN Human Rights Council and the European Union to develop a national plan on business and human rights which will provide Irish companies with guidance on how to ensure respect for international human rights principles in their activities.”

  
22 Feb

First anniversary of the Constitutional Convention’s recommendation to protect ESC Rights in the Irish Constitution: will the current or the next Government accept it? ?

ATD with the Irish coalition “ESC Rights Initiative” is calling on the current Government and on the future candidates to 2016 General Election. Who is going to accept the one year old recommendation of the Constitutional Convention to strengthen protection of ESC rights in Ireland? Who will allow the Irish people to decide whether future governments should be obliged to make decisions that prioritise the fundamental dignity of people living within the state?

On 23 February 2014, the Constitutional Convention recommended to the Irish Government, by an overwhelming majority of 85 per cent, that Economic, Social and Cultural Rights be given enhanced protection in the Constitution. One year later the current Government has yet to even respond to the Convention’s recommendation.

There is a growing, worldwide, recognition and acceptance of the need to protect ESC rights like housing, health, education and an adequate standard of living. 133 countries enshrine the right to healthcare and 106 constitutions protect the right to work. Of the 28 EU member states, 26 make some form of constitutional provision for ESC rights. But, Ireland continues to fall behind in protection of these fundamental human rights.

Read Amnesty Ireland Press Release to mark 1st Anniversary of the Irish Constitutionnal Convention Recommandation.

Read comments of the Children Rights’ Alliance published in the Report Card 2015 on the very day of 1st Anniversary of the Irish Constitutionnal Convention Recommandation.

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Speaking before Human Rights’ Day in December 2014, Colm O’Gorman, Executive Director of Amnesty International Ireland, said: “Nothing has been done to incorporate ESC Rights into domestic law therefore fundamental rights like the right to health and housing remain unprotected.”

Noeline Blackwell, Director General of the Free Legal Aid Centre (FLAC), said “From health to housing to water, we can see unprecedented levels of public anger about how state services are being funded and delivered. We believe that inadequate legal protection of ESC rights plays a large part in these problems. Constitutional rights could play a large part in the solutions. Without explicit legal protections, people’s basic human rights on issues like health, housing and education are unlikely to be properly considered in deciding state measures like budget cuts or public charges.”

Fr Peter McVerry, founder of Peter McVerry Trust, said: “If the right to housing were in Irish law, it would enable homeless people to move into their own accommodation much more quickly and free up beds for others living on the streets. We know that providing a legal right to housing will work because the Child Care Act 1991 effectively eliminated homelessness amongst children. I believe that providing such a right to homeless adults in the Constitution would similarly transform the situation for them. Without the right to housing people experiencing homelessness will remain at the mercy of political expediency, where resources will be allocated to issues that are considered a higher priority.”

On the right to health, Cliona Loughnane, Policy and Research Manager at the Irish Heart Foundation, said: “We just need to look at the care people receive after a stroke to see how Ireland is failing to uphold the right to health. In 2014, it is still the case that where a stroke survivor lives will dictate whether they receive rehabilitation after leaving hospital. Without this rehab, a person may be forced to live with avoidable or unduly severe disabilities, or to spend the rest of their lives in a nursing home, far short of the health they could have enjoyed with proper support. Recognition of the right to health in the Constitution would ensure that the State deliver on its obligations for all people, regardless of where they happen to live.”

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The Mercy Law Centre, that assists homeless persons, and Community Law & Mediation, a Law Centre that assists individuals experiencing disadvantage, stated jointly: “In our day-to-day work in the law centres, we see first-hand the effects of the lack of protection of ESC rights in domestic Irish law. Making them enforceable in Irish law would place a fundamentally important floor of rights in place for everyone living in Ireland.”

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The ESC Rights Initiative is a network of organisations and individuals with a shared belief that strengthening the protection of ESC rights would play a fundamental role in the creation of a more just, inclusive and socially sustainable society. Among the members of ESC Rights, you will find: Age Action, Amnesty International Ireland, All Together in Dignity (ATD) Ireland, Children Rights Alliance, Community Action Network, Equality and Rights Alliance, Free Legal Aid Centres (FLAC), Focus Ireland, Irish Heart Foundation, Mercy Law Centre, Community Law and Mediation, Pavee Point, Peter McVerry Trust.

  
19 Feb

A Woman’s Place is in the World! Ireland marks Beijing+20

In 1995, 189 countries including Ireland came together in China for the 4th UN World Conference on Women.  The Conference adopted the United Nations Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (BPFA). This is a visionary roadmap for the achievement of women’s human rights and empowerment throughout the world. Beijing+20 marks the 20th anniversary of the BPFA.  In March 2015, the UN Commission on the Status of Women will meet in New York to review progress on the BPFA and the global achievement of women’s rights and equality. Ireland will be represented there.

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission and the National Women’s Council of Ireland are playing our part by hosting a high level one-day conference to mark Beijing+20. The conference will be opened by President of Ireland, Michael D Higgins, and is a great opportunity for women and men in Ireland to come together to review, reflect, discuss and develop strategies for moving forward on women’s rights and equality.

ATD Ireland members will attend the conference with members of the SAOL project.

On October 16th 2014,  ATD international organised at the UN in  NY a panel discussionon the topic of women, poverty, and participation. Title of the event was:  Beijing+20 Leave No One Behind: Women, Poverty, and Participation

Read also the post by Diana Skelton, ATD International Deputy General Director: How Can Women in Poverty Challenge the Patriarchy of Social Services?

 

  
04 Feb

www.ourvoiceourrights.ie, a new website to inform & involve Irish civil society

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FLAC has launched a new website ourvoiceourrights.ie as a space to inform & involve Irish civil society regarding Ireland’s upcoming examination under the International Covenant on Economic, Social & Cultural Rights (ICESCR) on 8-9 June 2015.

The UN Committee on ESCR in Geneva has released a “list of issues”, questions, for the Irish Government to provide further information which must be responded to by 17 March.

FLAC, ATD and many other NGOs will be keeping an eye on the Government to ensure that the responses to these questions are published sooner rather than later.

Our Voice, Our Rights, the parallel report on ESCR in Ireland, was submitted by FLAC to the UN on behalf of civil society on 30 September 2014.

FLAC is now looking to update this material as well as introduce new information & evidence that comes to light subsequent to September 2014.

Currently the parallel report has highlighted the following pressing issues in relation to poverty and social exclusion:

  • Civil legal aid is not extended to areas of law (social welfare, housing, employment) that interact with poorer people;
  • Taxation system is not weighed in their favour of poorer people but leads to those on low incomes carrying most of the taxation burden (e.g. through VAT);
  • Combat Poverty Agency dedicated to tackling poverty & social exclusion abolished & replaced with a body that lacks independence within the Dpt. of Social Protection;
  • Loss of funding for local community organisations & restructuring of local government is affecting finances for those experiencing poverty & social exclusion;
  • Low wages earners & social welfare claimants are unable to maintain an adequate standard of living, supported by research from the Living Wage campaign & minimum essential standards of living;
  • Child poverty is growing & recession has hit families with children the greatest, fuel poverty in particular is affecting the elderly and food poverty is on the rise;
  • Consistent poverty rates and the level of deprivation experienced during the recession have increased, government targets on reducing poverty have changed & pushed to 2020.

The UN Committee on ESCR in Geneva has asked the government in the “list of issues” for further information, here are the questions;

  • Q 1. Information on how the National Action Plan for Social Inclusion has addressed consistent poverty and those at-risk-of-poverty-in particular amongst children, families with children, lone parents and Travellers and Roma?
  • Q 2. Has the National food and nutrition policy in para. 275 of State report been adopted? Paragraph 275 states “The Department of Health is preparing a national food and nutrition policy and an NGO, Healthy Food For All Initiative, seeks to combat food poverty by promoting access, availability and affordability of healthy food for low-income groups.”
  • Q 3. Information on measures to access healthy adequate food in particular for disadvantaged groups?
  • Q 4. Have changes to the minimum wage factored in a decent standard of living for workers & their families?

If you have any information in relation to these questions, The FLAC ICESCR Team would appreciate you getting in contact with them. If you are interested in writing an article for the blog on ourvoiceourrights.ie on any issue(s) under ICESCR or on the reporting process as a whole the ICESCR Team would also appreciate you getting in touch.