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Business and human rights dilemmas in the midst of COVID-19

A guide for senior executives

The COVID-19 crisis is emerging as a test of business’ commitment to upholding human rights.

The COVID-19 pandemic has catapulted the world into an unprecedented crisis. At its heart, the pandemic is a human tragedy, sadly with loss of life. Many people have been living under a state of emergency. To protect human life, we are being asked to change the way we live, withdrawing many of our personal freedoms. The economic impact will be far-reaching, with the repercussions expected to last for years. During these uncertain times, governments and business leaders have had to make quick decisions for which there is no playbook. Leaders now need to navigate a ‘new normal’ with human rights implications.

Leaders are being tested in their commitment to respect human rights. This paper will help businesses respect human rights and consider the dilemmas many leaders are facing while responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. This paper focuses on the short-term human rights dilemmas around how to respond to the crisis and discusses the implications for businesses recovering post-crisis over the medium-term. Finally, it considers the integration of human rights into businesses as they adapt to a ‘new normal’ and to heightened expectations from stakeholders of responsible and resilient human rights management. 

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