Dear friends,

Thank you for so many reactions to our 24 March Message of solidarity, commitment and hope in these global health and economic crises ! As a training organisation, GHR wishes to continue contributing to the reflection on the dramatic human rights impacts of Covid-19.

The present edition of our Newsletter is again devoted to this pandemic. It presents the action of UN High Commissioner Bachelet, a compilation of statements made by Special Procedures, EMRIP and treaty bodies, and an innovative proposal of our treaty bodies expert Penny Parker for States to report to the Committees on their management of the crisis.

Unfortunately, as expected, vulnerable persons, groups and communities in the industrialized world pay the highest price, and the worst is to be feared with the pandemic affecting gradually all the countries in the South.

Obviously, It is too early a stage to draw conclusions. But some lessons can already be learned from these painful months. Firstly, as long as inequalities and extreme poverty are not seriously tackled at national and international levels, a repetition of such human disaster seems to be unavoidable. Secondly, our Governments did not listen to dozens of scientists and experts. Shouldn’t we listen now to experts on climate change ? Thirdly, reliable information is critical. It is not ‘official’ information (the Chinese Government did not tell all the truth). It depends on good governance, transparency, full access to all the sources, and monitoring by the civil society. Fourthly, the functioning of our societies has to be reviewed. We cannot simply start again with business-as-usual.. ‘Human rights’ is not a matter of GNP or stock exchange: our economic and financial systems will have to change.

We’ll have to evaluate the UN human rights system as well. In this crisis, the action of the High Commissioner and her Office, of the special procedures and treaty bodies have been significant, was it only to remind States on their obligations and to limit the damage. Some suggest convening a special session of the Human Rights Council. This would make sense only if such a session would focus on the fate of the most vulnerable, be based on reports of OHCHR and thematic procedures, and be open to full and active participation of civil society representatives from the regions and from the most vulnerable groups.

Adrien-Claude Zoller

16 April 2020.

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