UN Working Group: The relevance of the UN Guiding Principles on Business & Human Rights during the COVID-19 crisis & beyond

Author: UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights, Published on: 29 April 2020

“Ensuring that business respect human rights during the COVID-19 crisis and beyond: The relevance of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, 28 April 2020

The human rights and economic consequences of the [COVID-19] pandemic have demonstrated the dire need for better safeguards, especially for vulnerable workers in both developed and developing economies across sectors..., display[ing] and amplifying existing and growing inequalities. [T]he workers who sew our masks…, who staff essential services…or care for the sick…are essential [but]…are often the ones most vulnerable…to…abusive contracts..., low wages..., few or no safety nets, and exposed to health and safety risks.

The UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rightsprovide the…authoritative framework for State duties and business responsibilities in preventing and addressing adverse business-related human rights impacts. The responses to the pandemic and the economic impact must not result in lower standards – or even be used as a pretext by governments and business actors to circumvent international human rights commitments. 

The State duty to protect human rights – is built on the fundamental obligation of governments to protect rights-holders, which applies both under normal circumstances and at times of crisis. The...business responsibility to respect human rights – applies regardless of how governments are meeting their obligations and applies in all contexts. The need for access to remedy for victims of business-related human rights harm – is equally important…, through both judicial and non-judicial grievance mechanisms. Businesses…should provide for or cooperate in their remediation…

States and business actors must use this moment to forge a new normal based upon the globally agreed standard provided by the Guiding Principles. The recovery period will provide the opportunity to take a more sustainable path forward, by putting people and planet at the centre. Eventually, making real progress in implementing the Guiding Principles will better prepare us for the next crisis, not least when turning our collective attention to the climate crisis and other human rights challenges…

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