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Statements Multiple Mechanisms

Meeting on enhancing technical cooperation and capacity-building in promoting and protecting the human rights of persons in vulnerable and marginalized situations in recovery efforts during and after the COVID-19 pandemic

07 March 2022

Delivered by

Nada Al- Nashif, UN Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights


49th session of the Human Rights Council


Room XIX, Palais des Nations, Geneva

Mr. President, Excellencies and Friends,

It is my pleasure to welcome you all to this meeting.

Two years on, the pandemic has taken its toll, touching all spheres of our life, and upending the lives and livelihoods of millions.

A recent World Bank report reveals that due to fresh threats from the COVID-19 variants, along with a rise in inflation, debt and income inequality, global economic growth is expected to decelerate from 5.5 percent in 2021 to 4.1 percent in 2022, that is this year, and 3.2 percent next year. Globally, over 100 million people were pushed into extreme poverty, and the International Labour Organization estimated a rise in global unemployment of between 5 and 25 million

COVID-19 has exposed and exacerbated longstanding inequalities and patterns of discrimination in the enjoyment of universal human rights.

Within countries, it has disproportionately affected the vulnerable and marginalized – including the poor, women and girls, children and youth, older persons, persons with disabilities, racial, ethnic and religious minorities, indigenous peoples, migrants, refugees and LGBTIQ+ people.

Multiple intersecting causes of inequality and discrimination have been further compounded by the crisis. For example, women comprise the majority in informal labour and 70 percent of the global healthcare workforce. They were therefore hit harder by the virus and loss of work compounding further, pre-existing impacts of gender inequality.

Among countries, vaccine injustice and structural and systemic asymmetries are leading to very divergent recoveries. The poorest and most vulnerable countries, in particular, have experienced major reversals in human rights protection and progress in achieving the 2030 Agenda.

Debt, corruption and illicit financial flows deny countries the breadth of fiscal space needed to deliver basic needs such as food, water, health, education, housing and social protection. Good governance at all levels including through tackling corruption and strengthening tax systems is vital to mobilize domestic resources to deliver rights.

Distinguished delegates and friends,

The Secretary-General has called for a new Social Contract between States and all stakeholders, based on equal rights and opportunities for all, and a New Global Deal.  We must together build human rights-centred multilateralism as highlighted in the Call to Action on Human Rights.

Since the COVID-19 outbreak, we have witnessed many forms of solidarity. The Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator and its COVAX Facility have delivered over one billion vaccines to nearly 150 countries. Countries have shared knowledge and good practice, including through South-South and regional cooperation.  States, including through initiatives such as the India-UN Development Partnership Fund, have deployed doctors and nurses, distributed vaccines and medicines, donated equipment and supplies, developed health facilities and trained healthcare workers.

But acts of solidarity must be strengthened. COVID-19 vaccines must be acknowledged as global public goods, and obstacles to access must be eliminated. States should consider a waiver of relevant intellectual property rights for vaccine production. I would like also to stress the importance of corporate responsibility, including of pharmaceutical companies, in ensuring respect for the right to health in line with the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.

In our efforts to ensure a rights-based recovery and to curb the trend of rising inequalities, we have, through 92 in-country presences worldwide, stepped up our own cooperation with the Member States, with United Nations country teams, national human rights institutions and civil society. In these endeavours, we are reaping the fruits of initiatives launched well before the onset of the pandemic.  

In 2018, through a productive collaboration with academia to launch an online training, we worked to operationalize the right to development. Our objective is to support national and international policies anchored in human rights that can uphold SDGs commitments.

In 2019, the High Commissioner launched a “Surge” capacity, comprising joint teams of human rights experts and economists in the field, bringing strengthened expertise on economic and social rights. Through this initiative, we have worked with a wide range of UN partners, Governments and civil society actors to help create the conditions to build back better; to leave no one behind and to reduce inequalities – all of them, critical underpinnings for a rights-based implementation of the 2030 Agenda.

These country-focused efforts have produced practical advice on integrating human rights in economic policy: from human rights-based macroeconomic inputs and a gender-sensitive perspective for national socio-economic recovery in Cambodia to support for the joint Government-UN-EU-World Bank Task Force to conduct a pandemic recovery needs assessment amid a debt crisis and many other risks of instability in Zambia. We have supported local government efforts in Serbia to remove obstacles facing Roma communities in accessing economic and social rights - and helped strengthen social protection systems in Paraguay to include vulnerable groups.

We look forward to your exchanges and insights as we come together to recommit to an inclusive post-COVID recovery. It is indeed our collective responsibility to uphold the full enjoyment of human rights and the full realisation of human dignity.

Thank you!