Side event – HRC 48th: Local Government and Human Rights
Video message by Nada Al-Nashif, Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights
1 October 2021
Ladies and gentlemen,
The topic of this side event is as relevant as it is timely. One year and a half after the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are still struggling with the effects of this devastating crisis.
While the pandemic has worsened existing inequalities, particularly affecting persons and groups in situation of vulnerability, and has had a negative impact on a wide range of human rights, some of the measures taken to combat it have further curtailed these rights. Individuals and households living on the poverty line, are particularly at risk of being pushed back into extreme poverty. Indeed, according to World Bank projections, the COVID-19 pandemic may have pushed up to 124 million people into extreme poverty in 2020, with the total potentially rising to as many as 163 million people by 2021.1
We have an opportunity, working collectively, to shape the societies we want post-pandemic at national, regional and local levels The Human Rights Council has recognised that while the primary responsibility for the promotion and protection of human rights lies with national governments, local governments have an essential role to play. Acknowledging the need for increased collaboration with local authorities, the Secretary-General announced the creation of an Advisory Group on Local and Regional Governments in his new report “Our Common Agenda”.2
We have seen local governments operate at the forefront to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and mitigate its impact on communities. For example, in York (United Kingdom), local authorities and civil society organizations quickly set up a COVID-19 helpline as well community hubs providing support to people in vulnerable situations. Valencia (Spain) provided access to adequate and affordable housing to groups in situation of vulnerability, including youth, older people, persons with disabilities, and victims of gender-based violence, whose housing conditions had been affected by COVID-19.3 The city of Rosario (Argentina) and the province of Pichincha (Ecuador) developed programs for victims of gender-based violence, including the creation of hotlines, attention centers and protocols to address violence against women and girls, which increased during the pandemic4 .
Beyond the immediate response, local government must also be part of the
recovery [from the pandemic] to rebuild better and more resilient cities, reducing urban inequalities and mitigating the impact on those in situations of vulnerability to future shocks.
Since the onset of the pandemic, OHCHR and our human rights mechanisms have issued extensive guidance on COVID-19, much of which is relevant for local governments. Some concrete action national and local authorities may take include:
- Accurately map inequalities and their root causes, so as to address them efficiently;5
- Ensuring uninterrupted accessibility to appropriate health and social services, available to everyone on an equal and non-discriminatory basis;6
- Carrying out needs assessment of persons with disabilities, with attention to children, women and girls with disabilities, persons with high support requirements and older persons,7/sup> and ensuring that economic recovery programs are inclusive of persons with disabilities and their families.8
- Taking targeted steps to prevent additional people from becoming homeless. Good practices such as moratoriums on evictions, and deferrals of mortgage payments should be broadly replicated;9
- Addressing housing issues aggravated by COVID-19 and developing rights-based housing strategies through consultations;10
- Involving civil society in the design and development of COVID-19 technologies, such as contact-tracing apps, and promoting social dialogue on these technologies to consider how they impact society11 .
Such initiatives and actions by local governments in the promotion and protection of human rights will be outlined in our Office’s report to be presented at the 51st session of the Human Rights Council.
There will also be an opportunity at the upcoming 11th World Human Rights Cities Forum in Gwangju, Republic of Korea, to discuss the role of local governments in the post-pandemic recovery, and identify best practices and ways in which local governments, local legislatures, civil society, business enterprises and others can work together to ensure vibrant and sustainable societies that can fulfil the aspirations of their citizens and populations across the world..
I wish you fruitful discussions. Thank you.
2. Our Common Agenda, para 119.
4. Information on Local Government Initiatives to Prevent and Address Femicides and Violence Against Women
Submitted by the UCLG Committee on Social Inclusion, Participatory Democracy and Human Rights https://uclg-cisdp.org/sites/default/files/documents/files/2021-07/Local%20Gov%20VAWG.pdf
7. Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities’ guidance to address the rights of persons with disabilities in the context of COVID-19 crisis ; https://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Issues/Disability/Leaflet_CRPD_COVID19.pdf
8. Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities’ guidance to address the rights of persons with disabilities in the context of COVID-19 crisis ; https://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Issues/Disability/Leaflet_CRPD_COVID19.pdf
11. Digital rights in the COVID-19 era; https://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Events/COVID-19/Op-Ed_OHCHR_EUROCITIESES_UCLG_UN_Habitat_XT.pdf ; CC4DR RECOMMENDATIONS: SAFEGUARD DIGITAL RIGHTS WHEN USING COVID-19 RELATED TECHNOLOGIES; points 4 and 5. https://citiesfordigitalrights.org/sites/default/files/CC4DR_Recommendations+Position%20Statement_Covid19tech%20final.pdf