UN Working Group publishes information note on UNGP implementation in the context of crisis recovery
"A Roadmap for Responsible Recovery in Times of Economic Crisis"
The UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs) and their three pillars, “Protect, Respect, Remedy”, were developed amidst the 2008 economic crisis and its consequences. The UNGPs provide a framework for fixing the imbalance between the State, people and markets, and bridging the gaps between economic forces and respect for individuals, particularly those most at risk. As the UNGPs reached the 10-year milestone in June 2021, their relevance as a key framework for addressing risks to people during collective crisis and shaping a sustainable path forward was at the fore yet again as the world continued to face the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. In its stocktaking of the UNGPs’ first decade, issued to mark the 10th anniversary, the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights (“the Working Group”) underlined this connection. The Working Group stressed that the UNGPs provide not only the authoritative framework for preventing business-related human rights harms, but also a touchstone for States and businesses to use in forging a better normal that prioritizes respect for people and the environment. The Working Group’s stocktaking concludes that the UNGPs, and their key concept of human rights due diligence that is focused first on those most at risk, provide a blueprint for States and business for a responsible recovery from the COVID-19 crisis. A “roadmap for the next decade”, based on the stocktaking, is being prepared for the end of 2021 to help set a strategic direction for implementation of the UNGPs over the next ten years. The present note complements the stocktaking and the forthcoming roadmap by providing recommendations for States in particular on the design and implementation of measures to prevent and address business-related human rights impacts specifically in the context of crisis recovery...
Looking back at the 2008-2009 recession and the multiple crises that the global community is facing today, difficult but important lessons have emerged. It is abundantly clear, from crisis to crisis, that State responses that provide tangible support for business, absent of conditionalities that are pro-worker and pro-rightsholder, will fail in contributing to sustainable, resilient, and equitable economies.
Responsible recovery means doubling down on the State duty to protect human rights, which includes setting clear requirements and incentives for businesses to respect human rights throughout operations and business relationships. Unless States prioritize alignment with the expectations outlined in the UNGPs and require businesses to act in accordance with the UNGPs, we will continue to repeat the shortcomings of the past.
Governments must also understand that crises like the COVID-19 pandemic extend for years and generate multiple and unforeseen ripple effects across economic and social structures. Workers will still feel the effects of the economic damage done well after the reopening of businesses and the distribution of vaccines. The recommendations outlined in this document thus should not be viewed as applicable only during crisis scenarios, but rather important best practices for all times, which take on heightened importance during times of crisis.
When choices around financial recovery are made at the expense of people’s fundamental welfare and dignity, the human consequences are real, severe, and often life-changing. The world now has a momentous opportunity to chart a different course – one that contributes to sustainable business while respecting the rights and dignity of all persons.