Human Rights Day, December 10, 2020. 

By Vatican News

Dec 11 2020

Top United Nations officials are urging all to act together in solidarity to recover better from the Covid-19 pandemic by ensuring the rights of all for a more resilient, sustainable and just world.

Drawing lessons from the Covid-19 pandemic, UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, are calling on all to build a better future for all.   They made the appeal in separate messages for UN Human Rights Day, Thursday.  The theme of this year’s observance is, “Recover Better: Stand Up For Human Rights”.  

Better world and future after Covid-19

“This Human Rights Day is a call to action – a call for all of us to seize this opportunity and build the world we want,” Bachelet said in her message.  She said the tragedy is followed by an “extraordinary opportunity to recover better”.

Human Rights Day is observed every year on 10 December, the day the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948.  A milestone in the history of human rights, the Declaration set out, for the first time, the fundamental human rights of everyone to be universally protected.

Lessons from pandemic

Bachelet drew four lessons from the pandemic for a better future for all.  Firstly, she called for ending discrimination saying, “if anyone is at risk, everyone is at risk”.  “Discrimination, exclusion and other human rights violations harm us all,” and make all of society more vulnerable.

Another lesson to be learnt from Covid-19, she said, is to reduce widespread inequalities.  Universal social protection, universal health coverage, and other systems for the delivery of fundamental rights,” she pointed out, “are not luxuries.” “They keep societies standing and can shape a more equitable future.”

Thirdly, she encouraged the participation of all, especially young people, in the recovery process. Lastly, Bachelet urged all to increase and intensify efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, which, she said, are a concrete Agenda for universal human rights.  Human rights, she said, “yield fair and resilient societies” and “are the answer to this human crisis”.

She thus called on all to act and work together in order to recover better. With strong solidarity, we can build a world that is more resilient, sustainable and just,” she added.

Putting rights in front and centre

In a separate message, Antonio Guterres also echoed similar views saying, “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 pointed to two fundamental truths that the pandemic has reinforced.  The first is that its violations harm us all.  He said the 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.”  The crisis has also provided “a pretext for heavy-handed security responses and repressive measures that curtail civic space and media freedom,” thus undermining human rights.

The other truth, Guterres pointed out, is the crucial need for solidarity and cooperation in fighting the pandemic effectively.   “Divisive approaches, authoritarianism and nationalism,” he stressed, “make no sense against a global threat.” – Vatican News