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“Leave no one behind” – Don’t forget your commitments in your response to the COVID-19 crises, UN expert urges States

09 April 2020


GENEVA (9 April 2020) – Governments worldwide and the international financial institutions should remain true to their commitment under the 2030 agenda and to their promise “to leave no one behind” in their response to the COVID crisis, a UN human rights expert said today.

“I am deeply concerned that decision makers will step away from their promises to reduce inequalities between and within countries during the current fight against the coronavirus pandemic, by adopting policies which may reinforce and exacerbate vulnerabilities that already exist,” said the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to development, Saad Alfarargi.

“In providing response to the crisis, many Governments are putting in place measures to support businesses and shield populations from the negative impact of restriction measures,” he said. “However, measures are largely imposed from the top-down, and the regular consultation and participation processes are frequently disrupted by confinement or circumvented.”

The UN human rights expert noted that, at the international level, especially in finance and economic policy, there are few, if any, rights-based decision-making guidelines.

“At national level,” he added, “women, minorities, indigenous and rural communities and internally displaced persons are once again not found at the negotiation table on issues which will have profound and long-lasting impact on the world economy and cause a major setback in the sustainable development agenda.”

Alfarargi called on all governments to enable disadvantaged and marginalised and vulnerable individuals and groups to meaningfully participate in decision-making processes. “This is essential to overcome structural inequalities and discrimination, to ensure their place as key actors in the development of countries, and to ensure the equal sharing of benefits.”

The expert urged States and international financial institutions to ensure that participatory approaches, reaching all concerned segments of the society, are developed and adequately financed, to make certain that every decision on recovery measures hit the right target and live-up to the commitment to leave no one behind.

“States where the need is greatest, in particular least developed countries, small island developing States, landlocked developing countries and countries affected by sanctions, should receive targeted international support to put in place participatory processes,” he said.

Governments and international actors should start, as soon as possible, gathering adequate data on the impact of the COVID-19 crisis, the expert said. “Data should be disaggregated at least by gender, age, disability, income, race and ethnicity. Such disaggregated data is needed to accurately assess the situation, to make inequalities visible, and to identify those who have been left behind.”

“Only based on such data we can develop evidence-based policies that specifically target those most in need. The collection of that data should be based on the principles of participation, informed consent and self-identification,” the Special Rapporteur said.


Mr. Saad Alfarargi was appointed as Special Rapporteur on the right to development by the Human Rights Council in March 2017.

Alfarargi’s statement has been endorsed by Koumbou Boly Barry, Special Rapporteur on the right to education; Dainius Pūras, Special Rapporteur on the right to physical and mental health; Ahmed Shaheed, Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief;Alena Douhan, Special Rapporteur on the negative impact of the unilateral coercive measureson the enjoyment of human rights; Javaid Rehman, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran; Ikponwosa Ero, Independent Expert on the enjoyment of human rights by persons with albinism; Léo Heller, Special Rapporteur on the human rights to water and sanitation; Alioune Tine, Independent Expert on the situation of Human Rights in Mali; Fernand de Varennes, Special Rapporteur on minority issues; Obiora Okafor, Independent Expert on human rights and international solidarity; Aristide Nononsi, Independent Expert on the situation of Human Rights in Sudan; Livingstone Sewanyana, Independent Expert on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order;Catalina Devandas Aguilar, Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities; Yanghee Lee, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar; Yao Agbetse, Independent Expert on the situation of Human Rights in the Central African Republic; S. Michael Lynkthe, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967; Alice Cruz, Special Rapporteur on the elimination of discrimination against persons affected by leprosy and their family members;Felipe Gonzaléz Morales, Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants; Rosa Kornfeld-Matte, Independent Expert on the enjoyment of all human rights by older persons; Clément Voule, Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association; Mr. Chris Kwaja (Chair), Ms. Jelena Aparac, Ms. Lilian Bobea, Ms. Sorcha MacLeod and Mr. Saeed Mokbil, Working Group on the use of mercenaries as a means of violating human rights and impeding the exercise of the right of peoples to self-determination; Rhona Smith, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Cambodia; David Kaye, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression Fionnuala D. Ní Aoláin, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism; Agnes Callamard, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; Nils Melzer, Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; Michel Forst, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; Cecilia Jimenez-Damary, Special rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons; Diego García-Sayán,Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers; Bahame Nyanduga, Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Somalia; Githu Muigai (Chair), Anita Ramasastry (Vice-chair), Dante Pesce, Elzbieta Karska, and Surya Deva, Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises; Ahmed Reid (Chair), Dominique Day, Michal  Balcerzak, Ricardo A. Sunga III, and Sabelo Gumedze, Working Group of experts on people of African descent.

The Special Rapporteurs, Independent Experts and Working Groups are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the United Nations Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the United Nations Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms. Special Procedures mandate-holders are independent human rights experts appointed by the Human Rights Council to address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. They are not UN staff and are independent from any government or organization. They serve in their individual capacity and do not receive a salary for their work.

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