COVID-19 & BHR RESEARCH PROJECT
The pandemic of COVID-19 has had a serious negative impact on human rights. In addition to governmental measures, business are also expected to consider and explore ways to mitigate the negative impact on human rights.
When Japanese companies, governments, and other stakeholders consider their responses, it is useful to learn from the information and lessons in the United States and Europe, where the spread of COVID-19 and the impact on business activities as a consequence have occurred earlier than in Japan. On the other hand, it is also necessary to consider specific issues and challenges in the context of Japan.
Therefore, Japanese lawyers affiliated with Business and Human Rights Lawyers Network Japan have established "Japan COVID-19 & BHR Research Project" and have published a Research Report "COVID-19 Impacts on Human Rights and Guidance on Japanese Business Response" by collecting information inside and outside Japan. We have published an English summary of the Report in addition to the original full version in Japanese.
Please note that the report complied the information at the time of publication, and the revisions will be made in light of the future situation changes and the progress of initiatives. It would be appreciated if you can kindly provide us with your feedback and information so that we can update the report properly.
Business and Human Rights Lawyers Network Japan
Emi OMURA, Akiko SATO, and Daisuke TAKAHASHI
C/O Research Center for Sustainable Peace (RCSP),
The University of Tokyo
3-8-1 Komaba, Meguro-ku, Tokyo, 153-8902, JAPAN
In preparing this report, Mr. Ryusuke Tanaka (Program Officer, ILO Office for Japan), Ms. Stephanie Venuti (Policy Advisor, OECD Centre on Responsible Business Conduct), and Mr. Livio Sarandrea (Global Advisor for Business and Human Rights, UNDP Asia and Pacific Regional Office) gave us useful information regarding the responses to COVID-19 by foreign countries and international organizations. We are deeply grateful to their supports. All possible errors in this report are, however, attributable to the authors. The statements in this report are not intended to represent the opinions of the organization to which the authors belong or those of relevant organizations.
This report summarizes the impacts and responses in the following six areas of particular concern.
"Business and Human Rights"
to Be Challenged
In the context of unprecedented COVID-19 crises for both business activities and human rights, it has been challenged how states can fulfill their duty to protect human rights and fulfill their responsibilities to respect human rights under the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (the "Guiding Principles")
The Guiding Principles set out three pillars: (1) state duty to protect human rights; (2) corporate responsibility to respect human rights; and (3) ensuring access to remedies for victims of human rights abuses. Under the framework of this Guiding Principles, companies are also expected to conduct human rights due diligence (HRDD) to evaluate and address the negative impacts of their business activities on human rights through their supply chains in order to fulfill their responsibility to respect human rights. The elements of the Guiding Principles are also incorporated into OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises and in ILO Tripartite Declaration of Principles concerning Multinational Enterprises and Social Policy (MNE Declaration).
In the face of serious damage to corporate activities due to the spread of COVID-19, governments are required to take measures to maintain the economic activities of corporations and the livelihoods and employment of citizens. Some measures have already been implemented by governments, including the Government of Japan. On the other hand, as mentioned above, there are concerns that the negative impact on human rights will increase as a result of changes in corporate activities, and companies are expected to consider and explore ways to mitigate the negative impact on human rights as much as possible.
The COVID-19 crisis has greatly changed the way people, including businesspersons, think and behave. This mindset change also provides opportunities for business to be transformed into truly sustainable ones adding values and fulfilling responsibilities to the society.