Put human rights at the centre of coronavirus response urges Muhammad-Bande

2 June 2020

The nations of the world must put human rights at the heart of their ongoing response to COVID-19 and ensure that everyone can enjoy “justice and peace” wherever they may be, the President of the General Assembly said on Tuesday.

Tijjani Muhammad-Bande delivered the appeal at the start of the annual review of the UN Human Rights Treaty Body System, which is being conducted this year via video-teleconference due to the novel coronavirus outbreak.

“As we contend with the COVID-19 pandemic, Member States must ensure that international human rights law and standards are at the centre of all responses to the pandemic in order to protect the most vulnerable and marginalized,” he said.

‘Nothing more urgent’

“There is nothing more urgent than ensuring that all human beings, no matter their beliefs, gender, economic condition or other status, are able to live in dignity, with justice and peace,” he said.

The 10 treaty bodies, or committees, are made up of elected independent experts who oversee the  implementation of core human rights instruments and seek to ensure that States parties fulfil their legal obligations.

Over the coming weeks, participants will reflect on ways to promote human rights through cooperation and dialogue, while also tackling such challenges as a backlog of reports from States parties and a lack of adequate resources, Mr. Muhammad-Bande said.

With the UN marking its seventy-fifth anniversary this year, and the deadline for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals just 10 years away, “it is crucial that we uphold the inalienable rights which safeguard the people we serve,” the President added.

Creative thinking and innovation: Bachelet

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, also speaking on Tuesday, said the COVID-19 pandemic opens a window of opportunity for treaty bodies to rethink and expand their methods of work for greater impact on the ground. 

“Creative thinking and innovation are needed to address the immediate risk of protection gaps and to strengthen longer-term working methods,” she told an informal meeting of treaty body Chairs.

She emphasized that while online exchanges with victims and civil society can be helpful, they can never fully replace in-person meetings.


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