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Wednesday, December 1 • 1:00pm - 2:00pm
COVID-19 lessons learnt and moving forward

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COVID-19 lessons learnt and moving forward

Organized by the Working Group on Business and Human Rights 


Brief description of the session:
The session seeks to bring various relevant stakeholders together, including States, businesses, and civil society actors to discuss the consequences and the lessons learnt from the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as how to build back better and to address emerging new global crises on the horizon by forging a new normal based on the globally agreed human rights standards provided by the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs). More particularly, the session will focus on the responsibility of States to create and strengthen an enabling environment for businesses to respect human rights in their operations, even in challenging times, as well as on the responsibility of businesses to develop actions, policies and transformative business models by putting people, human rights and environmental protection at the centre, even in crisis situations. The session will also look at methods of enhancing corporate accountability as a critical means to address emerging crisis situations and prevent future human rights abuses from developing, as well as ways in which effective access to remedy for wrongdoing can be enhanced.
The session intends to help the Working Group to identify essential components, ongoing developments, and key messages to feed into its upcoming report to the UN Human Rights Council which will consider the lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic. In relation to this, the Working Group also welcomes written input on the subject matter from all stakeholders.

Key objectives of the session:
  • to gain an overview of the most significant obstacles for States during a crisis situation to ensure an enabling environment for business to respect human rights;
  • to identify opportunities to build back better by States and businesses while ensuring action to prevent business-related human rights abuses and protect the human rights of individuals and communities;
  • to exchange views on how States and business should act to mitigate against the negative human rights impacts of future crises;
  • to illustrate how implementing the UNGPs and effective human rights due diligence policies helped companies to manage risks to people during the pandemic, and when emerging from the pandemic;
  • to consider good practices by companies and how such practices and transformative business models can help businesses to adapt to crisis situations and to implement the UNGPs;
  • to hear the voice and the perspectives of civil society, affected communities and workers about the challenges faced during the pandemic, as well as their views on the recovery process underway in different countries;
  • to understand how access to remedy for business-related human rights impacts deteriorated during the pandemic, and to find solutions for more effective access to remedy schemes at times of crisis.
Key questions:
  • How can States support business to respect human rights during, and when emerging from the pandemic? How can States hold business accountable for not respecting human rights during crisis situations?
  • How should businesses adapt to face global challenges, to avoid human rights risks and harms to people and the planet, and to become more resilient and sustainable overall?
  • How can all stakeholders engage in constructive and meaningful dialogue to address business-related human rights abuses in crisis situations, to build alternatives for recovery and to prevent human rights abuses in future crisis situations?
  • Which COVID-19 crisis specific remediation efforts against business-related human rights abuses proved to be the most successful and how can they serve as examples to follow in the future?
Background to the discussion:
The global pandemic and the related severe socioeconomic consequences have been a test for governments and businesses and it is critical not to lower human rights standards. It is vital for both to take a sustainable people-centred path while fighting COVID-19 and any future crises, including climate change, pollution and other human rights challenges stemming from injustices and growing inequalities. Moving forward in the next decade to more effective implementation of the UNGPs requires from both States and businesses a stronger commitment to build back better and to consider transformative business models to better face other crises. The session will build on the recommendations in the Working Group’s Information Note “A Roadmap for Responsible Recovery in Times of Crisis”, and its related statement “Ensuring that business respects human rights during the Covid-19 crisis and beyond: The relevance of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights,” as well as OHCHR’s October 2020 note, “Business and Human Rights in Times of COVID-19.” The session will also serve as important input to the Working Group’s preparations for its report to the Human Rights Council in 2022.

Additional background documents and links:
“A Roadmap for Responsible Recovery in Times of Crisis”, Information Note by the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights

“Ensuring that business respects human rights during the Covid-19 crisis and beyond: The relevance of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights,” Working Group on Business and Human Rights, https://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=25837&LangID=E

“Business and Human Rights in Times of COVID-19,” Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights,

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Wednesday December 1, 2021 1:00pm - 2:00pm CET
Virtual Plenary room