UN Secretary-General António Guterres has warned against using determination to enforce COVID-19 protocols as a pretext to violate the rights of the people.
In his message to mark Human Rights Day on Thursday, Guterres underscored the need to put human rights at the “front and centre” of COVID-19 response and recovery efforts globally so as to achieve a better future for the people.
“People and their rights must be the front and centre of response and recovery. We need universal, rights-based frameworks like health coverage for all to beat this pandemic and protect us for the future,” he said.
The UN chief said that the pandemic had reinforced two fundamental truths about human rights, starting with the observation that rights violations were harmful to mankind.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has had a disproportionate impact on vulnerable groups including frontline workers, people with disabilities, older people, women and girls, and minorities.
“It has thrived because poverty, inequality, discrimination, destruction of our natural environment and other human rights failures have created enormous fragilities in our societies.
“At the same time, the pandemic is undermining human rights by providing a pretext for heavy-handed security responses and repressive measures that curtail civic space and media freedom,” he said.
Guterres said that human rights were universal and protected everyone, underscoring how effective pandemic response must be based on solidarity and cooperation.
“Divisive approaches, authoritarianism and nationalism make no sense against a global threat,” he said.
Just prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the UN chief issued a “Call to Action for Human Rights”, which was described as a seven-point blueprint for positive change.
It spelt out the central role of human rights in areas such as crisis response, gender equality, public participation and sustainable development.
“On Human Rights Day and every day, let’s resolve to act collectively, with human rights front and centre, to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and build a better future for all,” he said.
The Human Rights Day is celebrated on Dec. 10 every year to commemorate the UN General Assembly’s adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on Dec. 10, 1948.