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Statements Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

The right to care: Intergenerational high-level panel on the occasion of International Human Rights Day

10 December 2021

Delivered by

Michelle Bachelet, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (Video message)

Mexico City,


I welcome the establishment of this Global Alliance for Care and its continuing advocacy and follow up to the Generation Equality Forum.

Human beings are social beings. We cannot survive alone. When we were children, we needed to be cared for, fed, nurtured. As we grow up, we need to be educated. And everyday of our lives, we need meals to be cooked, water to be fetched, houses, workplace and public spaces to be cleaned, ill-health to be attended.

Putting it simply, without care, we cannot have a productive and dignified life or develop ourselves to our full human potential.

International human rights law recognizes human rights to health, education and social protection for all. Children have their own right to be cared for, and when we are impacted by disability, including in our older age, we have a right to have care and support to live in the community. That means that care is not charity. In many aspects, “care” are human rights.  

International human rights law also recognizes that care, such as childcare, is a shared responsibility between men and women, and society as a whole.

And yet, for too long, we have taken it for granted that these crucial services are provided for free, or with very little cost, by women and girls. In the COVID-19 pandemic, once again, we are relying on women and girls’ unpaid and underpaid care in our responses, and not prioritizing the protection of the rights of caregivers.

We must invest in public care services, including support services for persons with disabilities. We must break the gender stereotypes which assign care responsibility only to women and girls. And we must protect the rights of care workers and unpaid caregivers.

Investing in care economy is not only fair. It is beneficial. Investing in the health and care sector would create jobs for both women and men, different than investing in other sectors, such as construction, which may create same number of jobs, but mostly for men.  

And gender equality in care and care economy would lead to dignified life for all.

I count on the leadership the members of the Alliance to transform care economy and protect the rights to care and the rights of caregivers.