46th session of the Human Rights Council Virtual ministerial meeting of the Alliance for Multilateralism


24 February 2021

Back in Geneva: New Frontiers for Human Rights
Pandemic Preparedness and Response Climate Change, Women and Human Rights

Statement by Michelle Bachelet,
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

24 February 2021


I am delighted that the Alliance for Multilateralism has convened again, to strengthen its important contributions to multilateralism, and to human rights.

Earlier this week we heard the Secretary-General speak powerfully about his Call to Action for Human Rights. This framework emphasises the need to advance gender equality and women’s rights – even in the face of today's setbacks. It recognises the need for climate justice. And it urges a "stronger multilateralism".

I am convinced that this new and stronger multilateralism, built on human rights principles, is indeed very powerfully needed today.

The world faces the interlinked emergencies of climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic. They share a root cause – and it is a preventable root cause: environmental degradation. This underscores the immediate need for global recognition of the right to a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment.

COVID and climate change also share many victims. Both disproportionately impact people already burdened by discrimination – because of their sex; because of poverty; because of indigenous or minority status; or for other reasons. As a result, both deepen inequalities, sharpen grievances and heighten social tensions.

We urgently need to begin acting on some of the lessons we can draw from these convergent crises.

Let me propose one key lesson: We will not ensure a sound and sustainable future for our planet and peoples if we continue to ignore gender inequality, and the marginalisation of many discriminated groups.

The heightened impact of both these crises on women and girls has been economically, socially and culturally constructed – which means we can dismantle it. Discriminatory laws, policies and practices need to be eradicated. Legal and practical reforms must uphold the equal rights of women and girls – within the family; in access to resources, skills and technologies; and in the public sphere.

My second lesson: we need to join up our solutions. As we work to recover from COVID-19, we need to build on human rights – for inclusive, sustainable policies – and embrace climate-positive solutions that will heal our environment.

This brings me to my third point. The truly global nature of both these crises, and the grave magnitude of their potential implications, requires a determined and global response that leaves no one behind. We must resist protectionism, and uphold multilateralism based on global solidarity. In other words, the world is sorely in need of the action and support this Alliance can bring.

I look forward to your discussions. And I thank you for standing up for human rights.