International Human Rights Weekly News Roundup

By Andrea Vremis, Dan O. Eboka and Dechen D. Piy

“Working together we recover better by standing up for Human Rights” Bachelet’s words on International Human Rights Day

Photo by Mathias P. R. Reding 

December 10th marks the annual anniversary for Human Rights Day, commemorating the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) by the UN General Assembly (Resolution 217 (III) A of December 10, 1948), establishing, for the first time, fundamental human rights to be universally protected. 

In marking the occasion, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, said in her video message, “this year’s Human Rights Day falls at a time we will never forget,” referring to the COVID-19 pandemic which has affected the whole world, resulting in a health crisis, an economic crisis, and a human rights crisis. 

The pandemic has disproportionately affected the human rights of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged members of society. It uncovered extra layers of vulnerability to children, people with disabilities, the elderly, women and girls, people with HIV/AIDS, people residing in conflict zones, and minorities. COVID-19 has also had a “devastating impact” on economies everywhere, affecting employment and income as well as education, health and food supply for “hundreds of millions of people”. It has particularly affected women and girls disproportionately, and has exacerbated gender inequalities across spheres, from “health to the economy, security to social protection”. Unpaid domestic work has increased, with the burden falling especially on women due to lockdown restrictions. Gender-based violence has also “increased exponentially” due to lockdowns and other isolation measures. It has forced many women and girls to isolate with their abusers, while shelters and other support services were disrupted or became inaccessible due to the restrictive measures. 

While our response to the pandemic must have a human rights-based approach, there is a general consensus in the human rights community that the pandemic has further exposed various issues with our current system of human rights implementation. Bachelet highlighted these issues as “lessons” learned from the COVID-19 crisis in regard to ending discrimination, reducing inequalities, ensuring participation and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). She ended her message with a call for action: “we can recover better… by standing up for human rights”.

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