Human Rights 

COVID-19 stoking xenophobia, hate and exclusion, minority rights expert warns

“COVID-19 is not just a health issue; it can also be a virus that exacerbates xenophobia, hate and exclusion,” said Fernand de Varennes, the UN Special Rapporteur on minority issues, in a statement issued on Monday. He reported that politicians and groups are exploiting fears surrounding the disease to scapegoat certain communities, leading to a rise in violence against them. This has included physical attacks against Chinese and other Asians, hate speech blaming Roma and Hispanics for the spread of the virus, and calls by some political leaders for migrants…

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Human Rights 

Human rights must be maintained in beating back the COVID-19 pandemic, ‘without exception’ – UN experts

“Everyone, without exception, has the right to life-saving interventions and this responsibility lies with the government”, said the group of 42 experts – representing nearly every independent rights specialist working within the Human Rights Council-mandated system –  maintaining that the scarcity of resources or insurance schemes should never justify discrimination against certain groups of patients. “Everybody has the right to health”, they declared.  They cited people with disabilities, older persons, minority communities, the internally displaced and those living in extreme poverty, as well as people in detention, the homeless, refugees…

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Human Rights 

UN rights chief urges quick action by governments to prevent devastating impact of COVID-19 in places of detention

“In many countries, detention facilities are overcrowded, in some cases dangerously so,” Ms. Bachelet said, making physical distancing and self-isolation practically impossible. People are often held in unhygienic conditions. Health services are inadequate – or non-existent – and the virus “risks rampaging” through these vulnerable populations. As Governments make tough decisions, she urged them not to forget those behind bars, or confined in such places as mental health facilities, nursing homes and orphanages. “The consequences of neglecting them are potentially catastrophic,” the High Commissioner said. Governments must work quickly to…

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Human Rights 

Moving forward requires confronting slavery’s ‘racist legacy’: UN chief

“Racism is the reason why outside Africa, people of African descent are often among the last in line for health care, education, justice and opportunities of all kinds”, he said. “We need to raise our voices against all expressions of racism and instances of racist behaviour. We urgently need to dismantle racist structures and reform racist institutions. We can only move forward by confronting the racist legacy of slavery together”. The transatlantic slave trade is one of the biggest crimes in the history of humankind. And we continue to live…

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Human Rights 

Ease sanctions against countries fighting COVID-19: UN human rights chief

Michelle Bachelet said humanitarian exemptions to sanctions measures should be authorized for essential medical equipment and supplies to avoid the collapse of any national healthcare system.  “At this crucial time, both for global public health reasons, and to support the rights and lives of millions of people in these countries, sectoral sanctions should be eased or suspended. In a context of global pandemic, impeding medical efforts in one country heightens the risk for all of us”, she stated.  COVID-19 has affected nearly 190 countries, with more than 330,000 cases reported globally as of Monday, according to data from…

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New global platform to keep information networks ‘safer, stronger’ throughout COVID-19 pandemic

“The new platform will assist governments and the private sector in ensuring that networks are kept resilient and telecommunication services are available to all”, said ITU Secretary-General, Houlin Zhao. Telecommunication networks have never before been as vital to “our health and safety, and to keep our economy and society working” as they are during the current crisis, where millions are being encouraged to stay put at home, the ITU chief maintained. He has asked instructed his team to “leverage without any delay” the new platform in aid of existing networks…

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Human Rights 

Preventing discrimination against people with disabilities in COVID-19 response

Lindsay Lee, a WHO Technical Officer who works on issues related to people with disabilities, was speaking during a Q&A the UN health agency hosted on its Twitter account on Thursday.  “What worries me perhaps more than anything is just the existing barriers that people with disabilities face.   I can speak for this myself, personally”, she said.    Ms. Lee, who uses a wheelchair, explained that health care access is already difficult for some people with disabilities, even in high-income locations.   Other barriers include physical obstacles, discriminatory laws and existing stigma.  “These things, if Governments…

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Human Rights 

UN human rights chief: racism and xenophobia are ‘contagious killers’ too

Michelle Bachelet was addressing the Human Rights Council as members met to debate progress since the launch of the International Decade for People of African Descent in 2014.  “Like COVID-19, racism and xenophobia are contagious killers”, she said.  “In the current context, we, at this Council, need to come together and work for the common good by maintaining physical distances between us. But our conviction, and our determination to advance human rights, are as forceful as they have ever been.”  Stop discrimination, promote inclusion  The UN General Assembly established the…

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Human Rights 

Educate children in their mother tongue, urges UN rights expert

According to Fernand de Varennes, this is not only necessary for inclusive, quality education but also to respect the human rights of all children. The Special Rapporteur said that: “Education in a minority’s mother tongue, combined with quality teaching of the official language, is more cost-effective in the long term; reduces dropout rates; leads to noticeably better academic results, particularly for girls; improves levels of literacy and fluency in both the mother tongue and the official or majority language; and leads to greater family and community involvement.” Learning in one’s…

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