Human rights must be ‘front and centre’ of COVID-19 response: UN Secretary General

UN Secretary-General António Guterres has called for human rights to be put “front and centre” of COVID-19 response and recovery globally in order to achieve a better future for people everywhere.

The UN chief made the appeal in his message for Human Rights Day, observed on Thursday.

“People and their rights must be front and centre of response and recovery. We need universal, rights-based frameworks like health coverage for all, to beat this pandemic and protect us for the future”, he said.

The pandemic has reinforced two fundamental truths about human rights, said the Secretary-General, starting with the observation that violations harm us all.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has had a disproportionate impact on vulnerable groups including frontline workers, people with disabilities, older people, women and girls, and minorities. It has thrived because poverty, inequality, discrimination, the destruction of our natural environment and other human rights failures, have created enormous fragilities in our societies”, he said.

“At the same time, the pandemic is undermining human rights, by providing a pretext for heavy-handed security responses and repressive measures that curtail civic space and media freedom.”