The Commonwealth is joining forces with law firms to give member countries expert help on mitigating the devastating effects of Covid-19 on people’s livelihoods.

The Covid-19 Business Law Response Initiative (COBULRI) will offer guidance and knowledge to governments of developing countries in particular as they rapidly adjust legislation to meet the huge disruption caused by the pandemic.

This scheme aims to help member countries steer through measures that will protect businesses and economies which are facing up to the enormous financial consequences of the Covid-19 outbreak.

In collaboration with international law firms Slaughter & May and Milbank LLP, a team of specialists has been assembled to help countries review their laws and regulations.

Lawyers involved in the initiative will work pro bono as they carry out in-depth research and recommend proposed legislative changes where countries have expressed a need. They will liaise with experts in-country to ensure advice is tailored to domestic legal frameworks.

Among various areas of interest covered by the initiative are job retention schemes, corporate financing, data protection and business rate breaks.

The Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland has warned an “economic tsunami” could follow the health and social costs of the pandemic.

She said: “It is at these times of stress, when our countries are threatened by Covid-19, climate change such as several Category 5 storms in the Pacific, and the prospects of a financial meltdown, that we become more aware of the need to join hands and galvanise all possible efforts.

“This includes pooling knowledge and resources across our public and private sectors to alleviate some of the negative impacts Covid-19 has on businesses and the economy.”

The Secretary-General added: “Bearing in mind the likely economic consequences of this devastating pandemic, we need to build on the advantages offered by the close ties we share through our legal systems.

“This initiative will assist our members to implement measures, with tailored solutions contextualised to the needs of each country.

“By working together in this way, our Commonwealth connections can help to save livelihoods and rebuild economies at a time when many of our members’ resources are stretched to breaking point.”

An invitation outlining the benefits of the initiative has been sent to the Law Ministers and Attorneys-General of all Commonwealth member countries.

More law firms that are willing to work on a pro bono basis are also being urged to take part.

Promising practices from the scheme will be shared through the Commonwealth’s Innovation Hub for the greater benefit of all members.

The launch of COBULRI is the latest in a series of measures from the Commonwealth amid the global crisis.

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