‘Opportunity’ in crisis: UN regional forum on business and human rights seeks high road in post COVID-19 recovery

Asia Pacific - A virtual event brings together a broad range of delegates to discuss strategies to manage the impact of COVID-19 in the region and chart a path to a more inclusive future.

09 June 2020
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Forum on Responsible Business and Human Rights

Bangkok, 9 June 2020 – A United Nations business and human rights forum opening today has cautioned that there cannot be a return to business as usual in the Asia-Pacific region during post-COVID 19 recovery.  A joint video statement from the Asian and Pacific heads of six leading international organisations urged a focus on human and labour rights, the environment and the vulnerable - including children, women and indigenous peoples - when redesigning public and business policy responses and as global economic activity resumes.

According to the statement, the post COVID-19 response should be seen as “an opportunity to …build back better, develop innovative solutions and create pathways to a more equal, inclusive and sustainable world.”

This year’s Responsible Business and Human Rights Forum takes place against a backdrop of unprecedented economic and social disruption caused by the continuing COVID-19 pandemic. Recent UN estimates are that more than 305 million jobs have been lost globally since the pandemic began and as many as 500 million people will be driven into poverty by the end of 2020, potentially undoing much of the progress achieved through the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

While many countries of Asia and the Pacific have seen success in limiting transmission and deaths from COVID-19, nearly all have paid a price in terms of increased unemployment, insecurity and poverty.  Women, children and migrant workers are among those most likely to suffer as losses cascade through the region. 

Over the next three days, the event aims to take stock of the virus’ impact and discuss challenges and opportunities for advancing responsible business and human rights in the region. Subjects under discussion include implementing national action plans for business and human rights, the implications for international trade, mitigating the impact of COVID-19 on workers and their communities, tackling gender bias and women’s burden of care in recovery plans, protecting human rights defenders, and assessing policy responses for migrant workers.  The Forum will also see regional companies share their experiences in goal setting and driving action on climate change.

Normally held in Bangkok, the Forum this year is virtual, with participants connecting on a dedicated internet platform.  Interest has been high, with more than 5000 delegates from governments, business, civil society organizations and workers’ groups signing up for the 35 sessions and side events. 

Hosts of the UN Responsible Business and Human Right Forum include the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights (UNWG), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the International Labour Organization (ILO), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women) and the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP).

For more information or to follow discussions live, see www.rbhrforum.com

Contact: Pete Forster +61 417 805 890   forsterw@iloguest.org

Shima Islam, +66 (0) 2 356 9407 ssislam@unicef.org

Ms. Kavita Sukanandan, + 66 2 288 1869 sukanandan@un.org

Bovornpong Vathanathanakul, +66 86 397 3369, b.vathanathanakul@unwomen.org

Media contacts

Shima Islam
Regional Communication Specialist
UNICEF East Asia and the Pacific
Tel: +66 (0)23569407


UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.

For more information about UNICEF East Asia & Pacific and its work for children, visit www.unicef.org/eap

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