Human Rights Council gathers for virtual meeting on COVID-19

On 9 April 2020, the UN Human Rights Council met for a virtual conversation with High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet. This was the Council’s first meeting since the suspension of its 43rd Session over concerns of the novel coronavirus. The High Commissioner used the opportunity to stress that COVID-19 “is a global pandemic only global solidarity will ensure that we can combat it effectively.”

During this meeting, Franciscans International also joined a group of other civil society organizations to deliver statements expressing its concerns about the negative impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on human rights.

NGO statement on the COVID-19 response by the United Nations 

In this statement, 85* organizations stressed the importance of a multi-faceted response by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Human Rights Council. The statement calls for the continued monitoring and assessment of emergency measures taken by UN member states, in particular whether these are consistent with international human rights law.

Full statement (English)

NGO statement on COVID-19 and civil and political rights

Access to information is of critical importance in the efforts to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. Nevertheless, across the globe, journalists and human rights defenders have come under attack as States have sought to restrict the free flow of information on the novel coronavirus – often at the expense of marginalized groups and populations. Some governments have used emergency measures as a pretext to expand or further consolidate their power. Meanwhile, attempts to monitor and restrict people’s physical movement raise serious concerns about privacy and invasive digital surveillance.

Full statement (English)

NGO statement on COVID-19 and economic, social and cultural rights

The impact of the restrictions imposed to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus disproportionately affect those already facing precarious economic and social situations. In this statement, 69 organizations call on States to use all available resources to respect, protect and fulfil economic and social rights that are at the heart of this crisis – including the rights to health, housing, water and sanitation, food, work, social security, education, healthy environment an adequate standard of living, and to equality and non-discrimination as cross-cutting rights.

Full statement (English)

The full meeting of the Human Rights Council, including these statements, are also available on UNTV. The full statement of the High Commissioner for Human Rights can be found here.

Franciscans International previously released a statement sharing some of the challenges faced by its grassroots partners and its concern about the impact of the COVID-19 disease on human rights.

*This article was updated on 20 April 2020 to include additional signatories to the statements.