COVID-19 and (international) calls for action
The COVID-19 crisis is a worldwide challenge. We and especially our partners in production countries in the Global South see the daily struggles of people being without work as production has come to a standstill, resulting in no to little means to provide for even the basics to survive. Distance schooling is not an option in many countries. Labour migrants cannot return to their homes and families in the countryside as public transport has been shut down. The ILO expects that 25 million jobs worldwide can disappear and warns that women and migrant workers are particularly vulnerable. Companies see a decrease in demand as consumers postpone purchases and because parts of production have come to a standstill. In addition, public tenders are also delayed or lead to a delay. There is a fear that because of the limited income, with schools closed and migrants not returned, producers will turn to cheaper child labour to make ends meet.
Call on governments and companies
The crisis lays bare the need for responsible conduct in dealing with business relationship. Governments, worldwide have a duty to protect and care for its citizens and companies worldwide have a duty to respect human rights. Both governments and business need to provide for remedy in case of these duties being breached (see the UN guiding principles for business and human rights).
Many civil society organisations, multi-stakeholder initiatives (MSIs) as well as international institutions and the United Nations have made urgent calls for action to deal with the crisis, and to now, more than ever, abide by the UNGPS (see above) and the OECD due diligence guidance for responsible business conduct, but also to ensure we build back better (a term used especially in emergency relief circles) and take lessons of the past into consideration.
Some examples of statements and calls to action that might be of use for your work in your countries:
- OECD watch
- Clean Cloth Campaign
- Modint (in Dutch)
- Institute for Human Rights and Business (IHRB)
Investors have recently done a call on governments for mandatory human rights due diligence.
- Management guidance
- UNDP Rapid self-assessment on the human rights risks and impacts common to many industries
- UNICEF 7 steps to for employers to support working parents
- For the garment sector there is: live blog of the Clean Cloth Campaign
- A statement from MSI’s and organizations working with the textile industry
- A policy paper by ECCHR
Other useful resources are:
- Business and human rights resource centre
- Better Work
- Somo, with a guidance on responsible disengagement
- OECD Policy note on COVID-19 and responsible Business Conduct (not sector-specific, but with mention of the garment and textile sector)
Many governments are supporting companies to get through this crisis (like also the government of the Netherlands) and as civil society here we have asked to add strict criteria to that support (see MVO platform – in Dutch). Partners of WNCB have also called upon importing companies, brands and retailers in the Netherlands to ensure responsible purchasing practices and maintain the dialogue and look for collaborative solutions with all supply chain partners for now during the crisis, but also to think ahead and build sustainable supply chain relations and business practices for the recovery period and beyond.