Human Rights and Covid19: We are all in this together

The United Nations Secretary General Launches Policy Brief on the Importance of Human Rights in Shaping Inclusive and Effective Responses to the COVID-19 Pandemic

* translation for BiH attached as document to the top of this page*

Human rights are critical – for the response and the recovery They put people at the centre and produce better outcomes

Human rights are key in shaping the pandemic response, both for the public health emergency and the broader impact on people’s lives and livelihoods. Human rights put people centre-stage. Responses that are shaped by and respect human rights protect human life and dignity. They result in better outcomes in beating the pandemic, ensuring healthcare for everyone. But they also focus our attention on who is suffering most, why, and what can be done about it. They prepare the ground now for us to focus again to creating more equitable and sustainable societies, development and peace.

Six human rights messages

   1. Protecting people’s lives is the priority; protecting livelihoods helps us do it We must deal with the economic and social impact alongside the public health response

We are all in this together. The focus is rightly on saving lives, for which universal access to healthcare is imperative. But the health crisis has triggered an economic and social crisis that is hitting individuals, families and communities hard. This impact comes from the disease itself but also from the measures necessary to combat it coming up against underlying factors like inequalities and weak protection systems. It falls disproportionately on some people, often those least able to protect themselves. Effective government action to mitigate the worst impacts, on jobs, livelihoods, access to basic services and family life, protects people’s lives, enables people to comply with public health measures and eases recovery once these measures can be lifted.

   2. The virus does not discriminate; but its impacts do Inclusive responses to a global threat to ensure no one is left behind

We are all in this together. Responses need to be inclusive, equitable and universal otherwise they will not beat a virus that affects everyone regardless of status. If the virus persists in one community, it remains to threat to all communities, so discriminatory practices place us all at risk. There are indications that the virus, and its impact, are disproportionately affecting certain communities, highlighting underlying structural inequalities and pervasive discrimination that need to be addressed in the response and aftermath of this crisis.

   3. Involve everyone in your response Participation in open, transparent and accountable responses

We are all in this together. To effectively combat the pandemic, we all need to be part of the response. Effective participation in the response requires people to be informed, involved in decisions that affect them and see that any measures taken are necessary, reasonable and proportionate to combat the virus and save lives. We all have a role to play but the most effective way to maximize participation is through evidence, persuasion and collective ownership. People need agency and voice in a crisis. This is a time when, more than ever, governments need to be open and transparent, responsive and accountable to the people they are seeking to protect. Civil society organizations, as well as the private sector and business, have contributions to make that should be facilitated.

   4. The threat is the virus, not the people Emergency and security measures, if needed, must be temporary, proportional and aimed at protecting people

We are all in this together. The pandemic poses a serious public health threat with wide-ranging implications for peace and security. Law enforcement has a role to support the fight against the disease and protect people. Emergency powers may be needed but broad executive powers, swiftly granted with minimal oversight, carry risks. Heavy-handed security responses undermine the health response and can exacerbate existing threats to peace and security or create new ones. The best response is one that aims to respond proportionately to immediate threats whilst protecting human rights under the rule of law. This is a time for peace, to focus on beating the virus.

   5. No country can beat this alone Global threats require global responses

We are all in this together. International solidarity is essential in the global response – no one country can beat this alone and some countries are better equipped to respond than others. Just as no country can afford for individuals to be left behind, the world cannot afford for one country to be left behind if the virus is to be beaten.

   6. When we recover, we must be better than we were before The crisis has revealed weaknesses that human rights can help to fix

We are all in this together. In what world do we want to live when this is all over? The way in which we respond now can help to shape that future – for better or for worse. We must ensure that we do not do harm whilst we focus on the immediate crisis. It is critical to consider the long-term whilst planning our short-term responses. The crisis is revealing weaknesses in the way public services are delivered and inequalities that impede access to them. Human rights help us to respond to the immediate priorities and develop prevention strategies for the future.

Full Policy Brief here:

Media Contacts
UN entities involved in this initiative
United Nations