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IHRB guidance urges businesses to find original solutions & respect human rights standards when responding to COVID-19

“Respecting human rights in the time of the COVID-19 pandemic: Examining companies’ responsibilities for workers an affected communities”, 16 April 2020

The spread of [COVID-19]…has...been relentless and its impacts exponential. The de facto shutdown of businesses large and small in many countries has crippled the global economy, affecting primary producers in Latin America and Africa, and manufacturing supply chains in Asia.

Equity markets have tumbled, trade has collapsed, planes are grounded…, factories have closed [and]…tourism has declined. [C]ompanies …are now faced with a range of unprecedented challenges that will require clarity of thinking..., the need to think outside the box, commitment to adhere to international standards and norms, and a concerted effort of collective action.

Companies...should use their leverage to safeguard the rights of those who work for their suppliers, partners, and associates. Beyond that, companies have responsibilities to…how the products they make and services they offer can adapt to meet critical urgent and future needs, support relief efforts, contribute to research, and...augment public dialogue...to prevent the recurrence of such a crisis…

This paper is divided into four parts. Part I provides an overview of the human rights impacts of the pandemic. Part II outlines the importance of the corporate responsibility to respect human rights in the current context. Part III identifies where change is needed and where good practices are being implemented. It concludes with a series of recommendations to businesses. Part IV looks ahead, to the extent that is possible, and reflects on the longer-term implications. Three appendices show instructive examples from the past.

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