HRC 46th Session - Item 2: General Debate - oral update by the High Commissioner on the human rights impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic

Human Rights Council 46th Session

Item 2: General Debate - oral update by the High Commissioner on the human rights impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic

25 February 2021

Nordic-Baltic Intervention by H.E. Ambassador Katrin Saarsalu-Layachi, Estonia


Madame President,

I have the honour to deliver this statement on behalf of the Nordic-Baltic countries: Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Sweden and my own country Estonia.

We thank the High Commissioner and her Office for leadership in putting human rights at the heart of the global response to Covid-19 pandemic. The current crisis, but also past pandemics have shown that it takes a coordinated global effort to roll back a global suffering and build back better.

We agree that the current global crisis has not only highlighted glaring disparities between people’s enjoyment of their human rights, but has been a wake-up call to show us that we need to find new ways to fulfil our commitments not least the one on leaving no one behind.

The pandemic has put a magnifying glass on the human rights situation globally. Despite the many gains in past decades, it is sadly still the situation where women and girls bear the brunt of unpaid care work, face economic insecurity and lack of social security. The incidents of sexual and gender-based violence, including domestic and intimate partner violence, are on the rise and many women struggle to have access to sexual and reproductive health services. The crisis has only exacerbated these pre-existing inequalities. We condemn all attempts to violate human rights with the pretext of fighting the pandemic. COVID-19 pandemic should not be used as a pretext or excuse to deny women and girls their rights but rather guide us to explore new transformative ways to ensure their enjoyment of human rights including universal access to sexual and reproductive health and rights.

Full, equal and meaningful participation of women and girls at all levels of decision-making is key to building back better. We welcome and strongly support OHCHRs actions to ensure a human rights-based and gender transformative approach to immediate, medium and long-term response and recovery plans. We also stress the need to ensure full funding from the UN regular budget to the OHCHR mandated activities. At the times of global crisis, a strong UN, with human rights at its centre, is imperative.

Thank you!