The Year In Review: The Director Looks Back at 2022

In the face of the challenges brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic, the world entered 2022 with a glimmer of hope, slowly recovering from the devastating impact of the virus. However, it is crucial to acknowledge that the human rights implications of the pandemic persist and will continue to linger for a considerable period. In response to these challenges, the Raoul Wallenberg Institute (RWI) conducted various studies and published valuable insights on lessons learned from the pandemic. Based on these findings, RWI developed tools to advance the work on human rights-based disaster preparedness legislation, strategies, and action plans. 

 These tools have proven highly applicable in the context of climate change adaptation and addressing the consequences of climate change and environmental degradation. They address critical human rights issues such as displacement, loss of livelihoods, and threats to access clean water and food. Indigenous communities, in particular, have faced the destruction of their lands and resources, undermining their rights and traditional ways of life. Recognising the increasing importance of this area of work, RWI aims to contribute to a stronger understanding of the link between human rights and climate change by actively participating in COPs and other key meetings. 

 In addition to the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic and accelerating climate changes, a humanitarian catastrophe unfolded when Russia invaded Ukraine in February. This conflict resulted in the displacement of millions of Ukrainians, causing profound humanitarian issues. Furthermore, the Russian army was reported to commit gross violations of human rights and international humanitarian law in the occupied areas. In response, RWI initiated work to strengthen humanitarian law monitoring and looked toward mid- and long-term approaches by enhancing human rights education at Ukrainian universities. This aims to ensure the presence of a robust human rights knowledge base in Ukraine, promoting the establishment of a resilient rule of law-based society for the future. 

RWI during 2022

Addressing the accountability agenda, RWI launched the Afghanistan Programme in response to the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in August 2021. This program, supported by Sida, involves extensive research conducted by RWI Visiting Professor Richard Bennet, who also serves as the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Afghanistan. The research is carried out in collaboration with a group of Afghan fellows at RWI, contributing to keeping the human rights situation in Afghanistan at the forefront of the international agenda. In the Afghanistan work and other programs, the gender perspective plays a crucial role.

Throughout 2022, women and girls continued to face various forms of discrimination, violence, and harassment in both public and private spheres. The alarming increase in domestic violence during Covid-19 lockdowns highlighted the urgent need for comprehensive measures to address gender-based violence and ensure gender equality. RWI has actively pushed the agenda in Europe and elsewhere.

Additionally, RWI continued to support access to education for marginalised young women through its Cambodia program and established a Gender Trainers’ Team to provide advice on issues such as CEDAW, gender-based violence, harassment, and LGBTQIA+ rights.

Economic inequality and poverty remained persistent human rights challenges. The pandemic and the war in Ukraine exacerbated existing disparities, pushing more people into poverty and worsening social and economic exclusion, including gender-based exclusion. Limited access to education, healthcare, and basic services perpetuated the cycle of poverty among marginalised communities. Under the SURGE project, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, in collaboration with RWI, continued groundbreaking work analysing the link between the economy and human rights. The aim is to establish a stronger understanding of human rights within ministries of finance, international financial institutions, and the financial sector in general. Given the social unrest across continents, this work is more urgent than ever. 

Throughout RWI’s offices, it has been a bustling year filled with remarkable achievements, which you can delve into further in this report. I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude to the dedicated RWI staff for their invaluable contributions in turning these achievements into reality amidst a world in great turmoil. I also extend my sincere appreciation to Sida (the Swedish International Development Agency) for their steadfast partnership with RWI. We are immensely grateful for the trust and support we have received from many other generous donors throughout the year. A special thanks goes out to all our partners across continents for their inspiring and enriching collaboration. Lastly, but certainly not least, I want to extend my gratitude to the RWI Board of Trustees for their unique support and guidance, propelling us towards our ultimate goal: fostering just and inclusive societies where the effective realization of human rights is a reality for all.

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