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Covid-19 has thrown business into the global spotlight in controversial ways, providing lucrative opportunities for many TNCs in the global North and raising questions about equitable access to measures to stem the pandemic in the global South. What is the role of business in the pandemic response?
In the global economic disarray wrought by Covid-19, the effects of the pandemic on international development are beginning to crystallise in evermore worrying ways. Just as many countries in the global South are struggling to find the resources to cope with the pandemic, the UK government's recent decision to slash its aid budget may signal a new era of global austerity in development spending. In parallel, the pandemic has thrown business into the global spotlight in new and controversial ways. On one hand, countries in both the North and South fear the demise of swathes of SMEs as national economies struggle to contain the shocks of the pandemic. On the other, the pandemic has been the source of lucrative business opportunities for many Northern TNCs as, for example, changing patterns of daily life and work favour large digital conglomerates and governments rush to contract management consultants to build and manage systems to contain the pandemic and deal with its fallout. In addition, questions are emerging about how global initiatives will ensure equitable access for countries in the global South to vaccines and other measures designed to stem the pandemic, given that the rollout of these measures depends on the interests of those (usually Northern) businesses and investors engaged in designing and financing them. This panel invites papers that explore these processes at play in the global Covid-19 response, and that tackle the question of what business's role is - and should be - in responding to the pandemic in the global South.