UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said the COVID-19 pandemic is a “colossal test of leadership” which demands decisive, coordinated and innovative action “from all, for all” adding, “We are physically distant today, but we must stand together.”
The Human Rights Council held its first-ever virtual meeting on Thursday, April 9 to discuss the COVID-19 crisis and how it affects human rights around the world. Briefing the Council, Bachelet called for urgent and detailed action to prevent the pandemic from creating even wider inequalities and extensive suffering.
“The COVID-19 pandemic is generating suffering and damage in every region. It poses a far-reaching threat to human rights. As Secretary-General Guterres has warned, it threatens not only development, but also ‘enhanced instability, enhanced unrest, and enhanced conflict.’”
The High Commissioner said vital measures must be taken to upgrade health and social systems to ensure the greatest possible support to those most impacted by the epidemic. She added, “We know we cannot afford to leave anyone behind in this effort.”
Bachelet said countries are facing tremendous challenges and “many are demonstrating their commitment to protecting human rights through this epidemic.” She stressed that others “should be encouraged to do so, in order to make their efforts to tackle COVID more effective for everyone – both in their nations, and across the world.” She added that it is “natural – and necessary – for national efforts to be a strong priority in any crisis, but this is a global epidemic, and only global solidarity will ensure that we can combat it effectively.”
“The pandemic is exposing the damaging impact of inequalities, in every society. In developed countries, fault-lines in access to health care; in labor rights and social protections; in living-space; and in dignity are suddenly very visible. In developing countries, where a large portion of the population may rely on daily income to survive, the impact could be far greater.”
The High Commissioner said the “universality” of the threat from this virus provides “the most compelling argument there has ever been for universal and affordable access to health care; actions to upgrade public health care, in every country, are especially urgent.”
Bachelet said extensive economic and social measures must also be taken, in every country, to lessen the shocks of the pandemic, and minimize the further growth of inequalities. She said many developing countries have less capacity to absorb and mitigate the economic and social impact of the epidemic, and may also be most vulnerable to world recession, through commodities pricing and a decline in foreign investment and of remittances, among other factors.
The Human Rights chief underscored that an “emergency situation is not a blank check to disregard human rights obligations” which recognizing that governments are facing “difficult decisions” to respond to the public health emergency.
“I urge all Governments to greatly increase access to accurate information and statistics. Transparency is paramount and can be lifesaving in a health crisis. I also urge an end to any blanket Internet and telecommunications shutdowns and denials of service.”
Bachelet said the only effective way to fight COVID-19 is with the public’s trust. She said all countries should seek to mitigate the impact of the pandemic on women, people with disabilities, migrants, and other vulnerable groups.
Source: United Nations
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