See the key messages from international bodies during the pandemic
A compilation of the main statements from organizations such as the UN and OAS on the coronavirus
The pandemic caused by Covid-19 has represented a new challenge for international human rights protection bodies.
Organizations such as the United Nations and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (part of the Organization of American States) have attempted to offer guidance to countries to help them find solutions to the crisis that respect democracy, social participation and human rights.
See below a compilation of the main statements from international bodies such as the UN and OAS on the coronavirus pandemic:
1- The UN appeals to countries to declare a ceasefire
On March 23, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, António Guterres, made an appeal to countries involved in armed conflicts to declare a ceasefire: “Silence the guns, stop the artillery, end the airstrikes”.
2- International bodies advise that countries should guarantee access to information
Contrary to the position of the Brazilian government, which in a provisional executive order sought to restrict compliance with the Freedom of Information Law, experts at the United Nations, IACHR (Inter-American Commission on Human Rights) and OSCE (Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe) have drawn attention to the importance for countries to guarantee the flow of and full access to information during the coronavirus pandemic.
“Human health depends not only on readily accessible health care. It also depends on access to accurate information about the nature of the threats and the means to protect oneself, one’s family, and one’s community. The right to freedom of expression, which includes the right to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, through any media, applies to everyone, everywhere, and may only be subject to narrow restrictions,” they explained.
3- UN rapporteur defends that countries adopt basic income
Juan Pablo Bohoslavsky, UN independent expert on the effects of foreign debt on human rights, urged governments to consider creating an emergency basic income to support the poorest and most vulnerable people in society.
Under pressure from civil society, which ran a campaign calling for financial assistance for the country’s poorest, Congress approved a basic income bill in the amount of R$600 per month. The legislation is waiting to be signed into law by the president.
The expert also asked that no mass evictions or property repossessions be made during the pandemic.
In an article, the senior economist of the ILO (International Labour Organization), Janine Berg, warned about the situation of vulnerability facing informal workers, freelancers and subcontracted workers on account of the pandemic caused by the novel coronavirus.
“Depending on the country, the worker may not be covered by unemployment insurance or other critical protections, such as paid sick leave,” she wrote.
5- UNHCR lists its actions for protecting refugees
The UNHCR (UN Refugee Agency) listed a series of measures that have been taken to ensure the health of migrants and refugees and to avoid novel coronavirus infection by these populations.
The agency stressed its efforts monitoring the outbreak and the suspected cases among refugees and providing information and clarifying doubts about the disease to people who are in shelters and settlements, in addition to the distribution of hygiene kits.
The UNHCR is also conducting coordinated actions with partner organizations and is in ongoing talks with authorities to help develop policies that help refugees during this health emergency.
6- Office of the UN High Commissioner calls on countries to adopt urgent measures to protect the health of prisoners
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, has asked governments to take urgent measures to protect the health and safety of people detained in prisons and other closed facilities as part of the efforts to contain the COVID-19 pandemic.
In addition to Bachelet, on March 25, the United Nations Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment published a document with a series of steps that need to be taken to ensure the physical integrity of detainees.
Other international bodies, such as WHO (World Health Organization) and IACHR (Inter-American Commission on Human Rights), have made similar statements pointing out that the prison population is particularly vulnerable to infection by disease and that they could become a new focus of infection if hygiene conditions are not improved.
7- UN agencies announce suspension of travel for refugee resettlements
On March 19, in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, IOM (International Organization for Migration) and UNHCR (UN Refugee Agency) announced that they are taking measures to temporarily suspend travel for the resettlement of refugees.
Noting that resettlement is a measure that saves lives, UNHCR and IOM asked countries to work in strict collaboration with the United Nations to ensure that transfers can continue in the most urgent cases, when possible.
8- UN asks governments to guarantee clean water for vulnerable populations
A group of UN independent experts and special rapporteurs, among them the representatives on the human rights to drinking water and sanitation, on the rights of persons with disabilities and on the right to development, advised that governments worldwide must provide continuous access to sufficient water for their populations living in the most vulnerable conditions.
According to the experts, the supply of clean and safe water is just as essential as any other preventive measure against the virus, such as hand washing.
“The global struggle against the pandemic has little chance to succeed if personal hygiene, the main measure to prevent contagion, is unavailable to the 2.2 billion persons who have no access to safe water services,” said the experts.
9- IACHR and OSRESCER prioritize comprehensive health protection of citizens
In a statement to the press on March 20, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the Office of the Special Rapporteur on Economic, Social, Cultural and Environmental Rights (OSRESCER) called on the governments of the countries in the region to guarantee, through effective measures, health protection for their citizens during the pandemic.
“States should require companies and employers to respect human rights and behave ethically and responsibly, particularly with regard to how the crisis impacts workers, consumers and local communities,” reads the statement.
10- UN Committee asks countries’ responses to be based on scientific evidence
The UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights said last Monday that, to ensure that the rights and obligations of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda are protected and enforced during this crisis, countries must take a series of urgent measures. In particular, responses to the pandemic must be based on the “best available scientific evidence” to protect public health.