Human rights have been battered in the COVID-19 pandemic but recovery represents a chance to improve on the status quo and finally ensure dignity for all, UN Secretary-General António Guterres told the General Assembly on February 24. Amid budget cuts and financial crisis, he appealed for support for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and related bodies, noting that funding is critical to achieve transformational change. "Much like COVID-19 vaccines, human rights will not lead to a healthier world if they are only available to the privileged few", he cautioned.
The Secretary-General launched his Call to Action just weeks before the pandemic was declared. The biggest international crisis in generations has exposed inequalities and discrimination, with women, minorities, older persons, and persons with disabilities, among those disproportionately affected. At the same time, rights and protection systems have been tested, weakened, and even shattered, and emergency measures during the pandemic have even been used as a pretext to crush dissent or criminalise basic freedoms.
"In building forward together, we have a unique and historic opportunity to forge a world where every person is afforded dignity; where every society can withstand crises; where everyone's future is built upon a foundation of inalienable rights," said Mr. Guterres.
The President of the UN General Assembly, Volkan Bozkir, underlined that a human rights-based approach is always the right choice, whether in times of crisis, conflict, peace or pandemic. "All responses to the COVID-19 pandemic must be shaped by, and uphold respect for, human rights", he said.
Human rights are a top priority for people worldwide, according to a global survey conducted last year to mark the UN's 75th anniversary, the Secretary-General reported. The UN has issued several policy briefs which outline action in vital areas that incorporates a human rights perspective, such as in maintaining food security or inclusion of refugees and migrants, or in dismantling outdated laws that discriminate against women.
UN teams in countries across the world have also been engaging with governments and civil societies, and children and young people are increasingly becoming part of the conversation on human rights.
Compiled by Law Desk (Source: un.org)