We are in the middle of a global pandemic that continues to have severe consequences for the protection and promotion of universal human rights and freedoms.
At this very moment, lockdowns and quarantines are preventing hundreds of millions of children from getting their education. All over the world, people have lost their jobs and livelihoods. Food insecurity has led to a dramatic increase in the number of people living on the brink of starvation.
Pressure on our health systems are affecting access to vital health services, including child vaccinations and sexual and reproductive health care and services. In such crisis, people with disabilities and other vulnerable groups are among the hardest hit. The consequences of Covid-19 are dramatic, and will have long-lasting effects.
At the same time, democratic rights and norms are challenged. Access to information is restricted or even lacking. We see targeted measures by governments to silence critical voices, to limit the space for civil society, to clamp down on peaceful protesters, and to undermine the rights of ethnic and religious minorities.
Those defending our rights, be they journalists, environmentalists, feminists, defenders of LGBTI and other minorities’ rights, are excessively restricted in their work and increasingly subject to reprisals. We acknowledge all those individuals who continue to bravely stand up for human rights, democracy and equality, who speak out against racism, discrimination and intolerance. All states must respect the principles of rule of law, and protect their citizens’ rights and freedoms – without any discrimination.
It is our responsibility not only to fight back the pandemic, but to fight for the protection of all human rights and deliver on the Sustainable Development Goals. We can only do it together; with a strong and efficient UN at the center, including a strong and fully financed human rights pillar.
Twenty-five years ago, we agreed to put an end to the discrimination of women and girls. We agreed to empower women and girls by protecting their human rights and promote gender equality. All around the world, women now risk being hit hardest by the economic and social impacts of the pandemic.
There is an explosive increase in gender based violence, while lack of access to health care, not least sexual and reproductive health and rights, has serious and long lasting effects for women and girls. Our response and recovery efforts, including our humanitarian response, must therefore have a gender perspective at its core. This must include women’s full and equal representation in all decision-making.
The voices of young people must also be heard. Young people have a right to influence decisions that affect their lives, and an important role to play in finding solutions to the challenges of our time. Digital gaps must be closed to ensure equal participation and opportunities for all girls, boys and youth.
One year ago, we celebrated the 30th anniversary of the Convention of the Rights of the Child. Regrettably, children’s rights are under increasing pressure, as children are at greater risk of poverty, violence and abuse. School closures and poverty has led to an increase in child marriages, with devastating impacts on girls. Children are paying a heavy price during this pandemic, and we must all do more to protect their rights.
Norway strongly believes that a global response based on human rights, gender equality, and democracy, is the most effective way to fight the Covid-19 pandemic and to build a better future for all.