Bridging Commerce and Rights Advocacy

International Business Associations in the
Indo-Pacific and How They Engaged on Behalf of Human Rights Amid the COVID-19 Pandemic


Summary adapted from APAC Gates

The role of chambers of commerce and international business associations (IBAs) in rights advocacy has received little attention, particularly with respect to engagement of IBAs during the Covid-19 pandemic. This groundbreaking paper examines IBAs in Asia and their efforts to protect rights during the pandemic, producing the following findings:

  1. International Business Associations (IBAs) active in the Indo-Pacific did advocate narrowly on certain human rights, including civic freedoms, in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic to governments in the region. This research identified three rights advocated by IBAs: freedom of movement, access to information, and equal treatment or nondiscrimination.
  2. IBAs emerged during the pandemic as force multipliers for civil society development. Through initiatives such as committees focused on Corporate Social Responsibility, or Environmental Social and Governance committees and activities, IBAs around the Indo-Pacific region focused resources on civil society organizations (CSOs) and their activities through various channels, such as by aggregating member company activity, communicating and promoting this activity to local governments, or through fundraising and resource allocation. While attention to civil society issues has been growing over the last decade, direct cooperation with CSOs is limited, and could grow further where interests are aligned.
  3. Amidst the infringements to various areas of human rights during the COVID-19 pandemic, many IBAs leveraged their unique, nonpartisan role at the nexus between business and commercial interests to advance the discourse based on rights-based principles.