Put human rights front and centre of COVID-19 response: UN chief António Guterres on Human Rights Day 2020

The UN Secretary-General said the world needs "universal, rights-based frameworks like health coverage for all, to beat this pandemic and protect the future".


(File photo: IFP)

UN Secretary-General António Guterres, on the occasion of Human Rights Day on Thursday – December 10 - called for human rights to be put “front and centre” of COVID-19 response and recovery worldwide to achieve a better future for people everywhere. 

“People and their rights must be 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,” Guterres said in his video message on Human Rights Day 2020.

In view of the COVID-19 pandemic that continues to attack the entire world relentlessly, Human Rights 2020 is being observed with the theme - “Recover Better - Stand Up for Human Rights” 

Guterres said the pandemic has reinforced two fundamental truths about human rights, the first being violations harm us all.

“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, the 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.”

The second truth is that human rights are universal, that divisiveness does not work. Solidarity and cooperation can enable effective pandemic response.

Stressing that “divisive approaches, authoritarianism and nationalism make no sense against a global threat,” the Secretary-General called upon all to act collectively.

“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.

Human Rights Day commemorates the UN General Assembly’s adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on 10 December 1948. The UN Declaration recognizes that the inherent dignity and the equal and inalienable rights of mankind are the foundation of justice, freedom and peace in the world.

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First Published:Dec. 10, 2020, 12:51 p.m.

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