Joining forces in Latin America and the Caribbean to help minimise the Coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis and foster responsible and sustainable businesses

Joint Statement by the ILO, the OECD, the OHCHR, the REDESCA of the IACHR, the UNICEF, the UN Global Compact and the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights.

Statement | 01 May 2020
The Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is rapidly spreading throughout the world, triggering an unprecedented health and human crisis that not only kills and spreads human suffering, but also upends people’s lives and attacks societies at their core. In Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC), the crisis will also have severe and lasting consequences on the lives of people, as well as on the region’s societies and economies. ILO estimates that, in the second quarter of 2020, working hours will decline by 5.7% – which is equivalent to 14 million full-time workers in the region, compared to the pre-crisis baseline (Q4 2019).

The major economic and financial disruption brought by the COVID-19 crisis will most likely compound the region’s sluggish economic growth and pre-existing structural vulnerabilities, profoundly affecting LAC businesses, workers and other stakeholders. Factors such as the rapid decline in the economic activity of main trading partners, disruption in global value chains, drop of commodity prices, increased risk aversion of investors, reduction in labour demand notably in the tourism, manufacturing, and retail sectors, and the fall of remittances will have a deep impact on LAC business activity. In a region where more than half of the population works in the informal economy, in microenterprises, or is self-employed, and does not have access to social safety nets, this in turn will have far-reaching consequences for the livelihoods of many households. The risk for them of slipping into poverty is considerable. The COVID-19 crisis will thus not only put an enormous strain on the public health sector in various countries, it will also seriously affect LAC peoples’ rights and, in particular, their economic and social rights. Women, who are overrepresented in sectors highly impacted by the pandemic or key to tackle it, will most likely be heavily affected, together with precarious workers and most vulnerable groups, such as children, elderly, migrants, and indigenous peoples.

LAC States, businesses, and employers and workers’ organisations have a major role to play in designing and implementing responses to deal with the COVID-19 crisis and mitigate the adverse impacts that the crisis itself and the responses to it may have on people, the environment, and society. They have started taking emergency measures to address not only the health aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic in the region, but also its immediate economic, financial and social consequences, with a special focus on the protection of jobs and employment. Long-term policy responses will also be needed, requiring a whole-of-government approach, in dialogue with business, labour, and affected people. Placing the respect of human, labour, and children’s rights, the consideration of gender issues, the protection of the environment, and the promotion of integrity and anti-corruption, at the core of these immediate and long-term responses to foster sustainable enterprises and responsible business conduct (RBC) is of paramount importance.

The ILO, the OECD, the OHCHR, the REDESCA of the IACHR, the UNICEF, the UN Global Compact and its local networks, and the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights (together, the Signatories) stand ready to support LAC States, businesses, employers and workers’ organisations, as well as other stakeholders, in addressing the unprecedented challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Through their respective ongoing work, projects in the region, and specific initiatives and guidance related to the COVID-19 crisis, the Signatories undertake to provide them all the necessary assistance to address the crisis’ economic, financial and social consequences while upholding internationally recognised standards. They will help them navigate these difficult circumstances while fostering RBC to limit the infringement of human, labour, and children’s rights, place a greater focus on gender issues, protect the environment, and promote integrity and anti-corruption. Joining forces to promote such standards and enable RBC in LAC during the COVID-19 crisis and the subsequent recovery will be key to protect the most vulnerable, ensure responsible and sustainable recovery, and build long-term resilient and inclusive growth.

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