UN High Commissioner on the implications of COVID-19 on human rights worldwide

News 09.04.2020

On April 9, the Human Rights Council held its first-ever virtual informal conversation with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, focusing on the implications of COVID-19 on Human Rights worldwide.

Michelle Bachelet exposed the impact of the pandemic, both from a point of view of economic, social & cultural rights as well as civil & political rights. She stressed that the pandemic risks to widen the current inequalities, thus actions to upgrade public healthcare worldwide as well as financial measures in favour of developing countries are of utmost importance. The High Commissioner expressed concern over restrictive measures taken by some states, stressing that any emergency response should be guided by human rights and be endorsed by the public. She further underlined that national efforts should seek to mitigate the impact of the crisis on women and vulnerable groups, and reminded all states of their duty towards international cooperation, both throughout the crisis and in its aftermath. Furthermore, noting that no country was prepared for such a shock, Ms Bachelet added that the international community will need to build more resilient societies, for which the 2030 Agenda remains the strongest tool.

During the interactive dialogue 40 states took the floor, including three groups of states, as well as 4 NGOs. Most states agreed that international solidarity is crucial at this time and fundamental for recovery. The EU, Sweden (on behalf of the group of Nordic and Baltic countries), Netherlands and Liechtenstein also stressed that the response should be based on international human rights law. Others, such as Azerbaijan, China and Bangladesh, stressed the importance of Economic Social and Cultural rights, which need particular attention in this time. Austria, on behalf of the Group of Friends on the Safety of Journalists, expressed deep concern over measures taken that restrict the rights of journalists and recalled the indispensable role played by free and independent media., Brazil shared the concerns of the High Commissioner with regards to vulnerable people, “who deserve all the attention”. Numerous states, including the Russian Federation, Syria, Palestine, Venezuela and Cuba were alarmed by the continuity of unilateral coercive measures imposed by some countries, which undermine the capacity of target states to respond to the crisis and further threatens the livelihoods of people already living in volatile security conditions.

The Right Livelihood Foundation joined a statement delivered by International Service for Human Rights on behalf of a number of civil society organisations, stressing that responses to the crisis must comply with human rights and international law regulations. We also urged the international community to ensure full and meaningful participation of civil society throughout all processes.

In her concluding remarks, the High Commissioner stated that she advocates for an easing of sectoral sanctions and will contact concerned states. Lastly, she stressed that participation of civil society is key and called upon all states to leave no one behind.

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