Ireland and the European Committee on Social Rights

ESCThere has been much focus on the role of the European Court of Human Rights over the last number of days (see, here and here). A less well known body, the European Committee on Social Rights, is responsible for assessing Ireland’s compliance with the European Social Charter (Revised). The European Social Charter protects a number of social and economic rights, such as employment rights, right to health care, social security, an adequate standard of living etc. Ireland has freely accepted to abide by a large number of obligations (but not all) under the European Social Charter. As my summary of the Committee’s conclusions below show, this report is somewhat of a mixed bag. It is important to note that the  Committee on Social Rights examined Ireland’s compliance with the European Social Charter from 2008 to 2011, so a number of important issues that arose since 2011 are not considered, including the attacks on youth right to full rate unemployment benefit/assistance; maternity benefit cuts; the cumulative impact of successive regressive budgets on those who are already poor and marginalised. In addition, it was somewhat disappointing that the Committee did not mention or consider the social and economic rights of asylum seekers (as it has done in collective complaints).

The European Committee on Social Rights has released its Conclusions on Ireland for 2013 on a number of different rights protected by the European Social Charter, including:

Ireland and the European Committee on Social Rights

The Right to Water and Privatisation in Ireland

We are delighted to welcome another cross-post by Dr Shane Darcy from the Business and Human Rights in Ireland Blog.  The Business and Human Rights in Ireland Blog is dedicated to tracking and analysing developments relating to business and human rights in Ireland. It aims to address legal and policy issues, as well as highlighting human rights concerns raised by the activities of Irish companies or multinational corporations based in Ireland. The blog is run by Dr Shane Darcy who is a lecturer at the Irish Centre for Human Rights, National University of Ireland Galway.

The privatisation of water in Ireland may be imminent. In its correspondence with the International Monetary Fund, the Irish Government has stated its intention to “move towards full cost-recovery in the provision of water services”. This involves the introduction of water charges, metering and the establishment of a State agency, Irish Water. The Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government say Irish Water is a public utility, and that “there is absolutely no intention to privatise water services”.

Nonetheless, the centralisation of water provision from local authorities in one entity would certainly make privatisation easier. As does the introduction of a customer-supplier relationship by way of charges and metering, as Ryan Meade has noted. The Irish Times ran an article in February 2013 with the headline ‘Dail warned legislation will open floodgates for new Irish Water to be privatised’.  Former Green Party Minister John Gormley sees the establishment of the water authority as the first step to privatisation. However, according to Minister of State for Natural Resources Fergus O’Dowd last month:

there will be a legal guarantee to give an absolute assurance as best we can that there will be no question of privatisation arising as an issue.

A qualified commitment from a Government under pressure from the IMF and the EU (with its controversial proposed Concessions Directive). In light of the introduction of water charges, legislation is reportedly to be adopted addressing exemptions, including for those who might not be able to afford the charges.

What does international human rights law say about water and its privatization? None of the major treaties refer to a right to water, although it can be taken as implicit in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. It was only in 2010 that the United Nations General Assembly adopted a declaration on the right to water. The declaration recognizes “the right to safe and clean drinking water and sanitation as a human right that is essential for the full enjoyment of life and all human rights”. Ireland abstained from the vote on the declaration.

The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights does not seem to oppose Continue reading “The Right to Water and Privatisation in Ireland”

The Right to Water and Privatisation in Ireland