RightON – The economy, businesses, and livelihoods in a COVID-19 world
In partnership with the Permanent Missions of Denmark, Norway and the Netherlands, UNFPA, the Geneva Academy, the Human Rights Centre of the University of Essex, World Jewish Conference, the Geneva Rights Platform, and the Geneva Internet Platform, the URG has launched a new digital initiative to keep the conversation on key human rights issues going during these times of lockdowns and self-isolation.
The RightOn initiative provides a platform for debate and exchange of ideas on topical human rights issues through regular webinars, which takes place every Wednesday at 3 PM CEST. The tenth of these Wednesday Web Chats took place on 10th June 2020 and focussed on the issue of ‘Protecting the rights of older persons during the COVID19 pandemic’
The COVID-19 pandemic and related national ‘lock downs’ have placed a huge strain on many businesses as well as on national economies. Some businesses have reacted by doing all they can to protect jobs, the health of their employees and livelihoods; while others have sought to cut costs with little regard for their actions’ impact on workers, stakeholders and society at large. At a macro-economic level, many badly-affected States have put in place job protection schemes and have supported businesses, including SMEs; while economic recovery plans have promised to ‘build back better’ – including by integrating human rights and environmental concerns into planning, and by better recognising the contribution to society of ‘front line workers.’
What are the human rights responsibilities of businesses during global health crises such as this one? What are governments doing to help, and what more could they do? What are the responsibilities of governments and businesses to provide a safe working environment before employees return (including questions about child care and school openings)? Are economic arguments trumping the right to health? Should more governments have followed the lead of Denmark and others by refusing business support payments to companies registered in tax havens? Are governments doing enough to ensure that taxpayers’ money is used to save jobs and not dividends to shareholders or bonuses to executives? Are governments doing enough to ensure that economic recovery strategies are ‘rights-based’ and will allow States to ‘build back better’ and construct better and more socially-just societies?
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