On November 22, we hosted the last and fourth webinar in our series on Covid-19 and Human RIghts, based on the book edited by Morten Kjaerum, Amanda Lyons and Martha. Davis.
We focused on what the building blocks will be for building forward fairer and strengthening democratic institutions as the pandemic continues.
Measures introduced across continents to fight the Covid-19 pandemic have strengthened authoritarianism, populism, and nationalism. Basic rule of law principles have been brushed aside. Powers have been centralised. In parallel, income inequality has increased with 150 million people pushed into extreme poverty.
What we tried to answer during this webinar was:
- How can human rights contribute to build forward fairer?
- Where is there hope for countering the non-democratic trends that have dominated global developments in the past decade, accelerated by Covid-19?
- What can the Post-2015 Agenda contribute with?
Who joined the conversation
Martin Scheinin is a British Academy Global Professor at the Bonavero Institute of Human Rights, University of Oxford. Over more than three decades he has worked both as an academic and a practitioner in the field of international human rights law. His work is driven by a quest for evidence-based assessment of both the harm (or benefit) to human rights, and of the weight of any legitimate counterbalancing aims, such as national security or public health. The need for such a holistic approach has been demonstrated during COVID-19, as “human rights are on both sides of the equation”.
Martin will share how COVID-19 has highlighted how important it is to understand the interdependence between different categories of human rights, the existence of both positive and negative human rights obligations, and the need to take into account the human rights of everyone, including the vulnerable. Only then can the fight against an epidemic be human rights compatible
“The experience of COVID-19 calls for a change in the governance of epidemics and pandemics: human rights, human rights law, and human rights experts deserve a bigger role than what has been the case. Designing a strategy, and every measure taken when implementing it, requires human rights assessment, not the least because human rights will be on both sides of the equation…”
Read his chapter in the newly published book “Covid-19 and Human Rights”.
Katharina Ó Cathaoir, PhD, is assistant professor of health law at the Faculty of Law, University of Copenhagen. Her research interests span health and human rights, focusing on how legislation can protect the public’s health, while respecting human rights. She is Principal Investigator of PRONTO, which examines restrictions on movement in response to COVID-19.
Katharina focused on on states’ obligations under the right to health in connection with the COVID-19 pandemic.
‘(I think it is key to use) a human rights approach, driven by solidarity, trust, and transparency, not coercion and fear, (building back fairer) Human rights underscore the responsibilities of states, in contrast to individualizing approaches to disease — the approach that we have observed during Covid-19 and other pandemics.’
Claudia Ituarte-Lima, PhD, University College London and MPhil University of Cambridge. For twenty years, she has specialized in human rights, biodiversity and climate law. As an international public lawyer and scholar, her focus is on environmental justice and the transformation of international law into new governance forms that support healthy ecosystems and people’s wellbeing. Claudia is Senior Researcher at the RWI and is also affiliated with Stockholm University and the University of British Columbia.
Claudia will discuss the need for increased accountability concerning duty-bearers who lower environmental and human rights standards with the excuse of COVID-19. Lowering these standards risk frustrating the urgent action required to tackle the triple climate change, biodiversity loss, and pollution crises. While recognizing significant challenges in catalyzing environmental democracy and solidarity in times of COVID-19, she will also provide examples of innovations to safeguard healthy ecosystems and show how effective action to tackle these triple crises is not only negotiated in high-level meetings by duty bearers but it is also rooted and reinvigorated by right-holders including women, youth, people facing climate-induced displacement -who despite being in vulnerable situations- stand-up for human rights and a healthy environment for all.
“The climate and biodiversity crises consistently illustrate how people, ecosystems, and other living-beings around the world are interconnected. Covid-19 has made this link even more obvious. I believe that recognizing and supporting the transformative agency of groups in vulnerable situations, rather than framing them as passive victims, is at the core of triggering societal transformations for sustainability, not least in times of crises.”
Read her chapter “Is Covid-19 frustrating or facilitating sustainability transformations?” in the newly published book “Covid-19 and Human Rights”.
Morten Kjaerum is Director of the Raoul Wallenberg Institute of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law, Lund, Sweden and Adjunct Professor at Aalborg University, Denmark. He was the first director of the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights. Throughout his career he has had one foot in academia and the other in practical human rights work transforming human rights norms and standards into realities on the ground. He maintains a forward-looking orientation, exploring new possibilities to strengthen human rights protection.