UN chief warns that coronavirus pandemic is becoming a ‘human rights crisis’

Support us and go ad-free

UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres has said the coronavirus pandemic is “a human crisis that is fast becoming a human rights crisis”.

The UN chief issued a video message warning there is discrimination in the delivery of public services to tackle coronavirus (Covid-19) and there are “structural inequalities that impede access to them”.

He said the pandemic has also seen “disproportionate effects on certain communities, the rise of hate speech, the targeting of vulnerable groups, and the risks of heavy-handed security responses undermining the health response”.

He warned that with “rising ethno-nationalism, populism, authoritarianism and a push back against human rights in some countries, the crisis can provide a pretext to adopt repressive measures for purposes unrelated to the pandemic”.

In February, Guterres issued a call to action to countries, businesses and people to help renew and revive human rights across the globe, laying out a seven-point plan amid concerns about climate change, conflict and repression.

“As I said then, human rights cannot be an afterthought in times of crisis — and we now face the biggest international crisis in generations,” he said.

The secretary-general said he was releasing a report on how human rights must guide the response to the virus and recovery from the pandemic. Neither he nor the report name any countries or parties responsible for human rights violations.

Guterres said governments must be “transparent, responsive and accountable”, and stressed that press freedom, civil society organisations, the private sector and “civic space” are essential.

HEALTH Coronavirus
(PA Graphics)

The report said governments also need to take action to mitigate the worst impacts of coronavirus on jobs, livelihoods, access to basic services and family life.

Guterres said any emergency measures — including states of emergency — must be “legal, proportionate, necessary and non-discriminatory, have a specific focus and duration, and take the least intrusive approach possible to protect public health”.

“Emergency powers may be needed but broad executive powers, swiftly granted with minimal oversight, carry risks,” the report warned. “Heavy-handed security responses undermine the health response and can exacerbate existing threats to peace and security or create new ones.”

The report said the best response is proportionate to the immediate threat and protects human rights.

“The message is clear: People — and their rights — must be front and centre,” Guterres said.

Support us and go ad-free

We need your help to keep speaking the truth

Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.

Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.

We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.

In return, you get:

* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop

Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.

With your help we can continue:

* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do

We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?

The Canary Support us