The recently published Taskforce for Justice report Justice for All and the Public Health Emergency sounds the alarm over the human rights crisis posed by the coronavirus pandemic.
Hina Jilani, as co-chair on the Taskforce for Justice, provides a foreword for this report, reflecting The Elders’ focus on access to justice and their concern that COVID-19 is widening the justice gap. The Elders echo the report’s call for an effective justice response ensuring that emergency measures are enforced fairly, all groups are protected from violence, and future disease containment phases are considered in line with human rights standards.
The coronavirus pandemic has placed the education of hundreds of millions of children across the world on hold indefinitely. In South Africa, schools have been shut down in the national lockdown, placing many children at risk of losing out on learning time. Particularly at risk are children with special educational needs and disabilities, who have various difficulties. These include physical, behavioural and learning difficulties.
The majority of women around the world work in low-paid positions, the informal economy, or in agriculture jobs with few protections. These are the sectors that are being worst hit by the economic impacts of COVID-19, and as the crisis drags on and worsens across the Global South, millions will be left without work, and in poverty.
- The COVID-19 crisis is the perfect pretext for some political leaders to advance narrow interests, brushing aside long-held principles of human rights, democracy and the rule of law in the name of emergency.
- Promoting human rights now will help societies emerge more resilient from this pandemic.
- Individuals need to know their rights and hold their governments to account on their commitments to international treaties, UN resolutions and public statements.
As Coronavirus (COVID-19) has spread to all corners of the globe, governments have taken a range of actions to slow the spread including mandatory self-quarantining, limiting public gatherings, and closing non-essential businesses. UN officials, agencies, independent watchdogs, and the diplomatic community have made clear that for public health responses to be effective, they must protect human rights and dignity.
• In a new report, the UN warns of “aggressive cyber-policing and increased online surveillance” during COVID-19 lockdowns.
• 57 nations have closed their borders, making no exceptions for people seeking asylum; there are also increased reports of domestic abuse across the globe.
• The UN calls for richer countries to help poorer ones overcome the disease to lessen the need for punitive lockdowns.
“A human crisis that is fast becoming a human rights crisis.” That’s how United Nations Secretary General António Guterres, describes the response of many governments to the COVID-19 pandemic.