51th Session of the UN Human Rights Council
Item 3: General debate on the promotion and protection of all human rights, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development.
Statement delivered by the Permanent Representative Ambassador Darius Staniulis
21 September 2022
Thank you Mr President,
I have the honour to speak on behalf of the Nordic-Baltic countries: Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Iceland, Latvia, Norway, Sweden and Lithuania.
We welcome the comprehensive report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the implications for civil society in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The pandemic proved to everyone that active involvement in public affairs is of paramount importance, especially in times of crisis. Volunteers and other civil society actors stayed on the frontlines providing health care, food, shelter and other essentials to those in need, despite the risks to their own safety.
Human rights defenders, journalists and other media workers significantly contributed by promoting vaccination campaigns and disseminating reliable information, as well as playing a monitoring role, ensuring that any imposed restrictions were justified, proportional and temporary.
A significant number of civil society initiatives started around the world, thus boosting active public engagement.
However, the report regrettably concludes that despite being essential to combating the pandemic, civil society was frequently excluded from critical processes, such as decision-making, often due to the lack of digital infrastructure and digital literacy. In particular, women, youth and other groups of society were significantly under-represented in Covid-19 management and decision-making, or even disregarded, thus undermining global efforts to overcome and sustainably recover after the pandemic.
It is particularly alarming that journalists and other media workers faced increased surveillance, smear campaigns, restrictions on reporting and other repressions against them, both online and offline.
We want to emphasize that crisis situations must never become an excuse for undue restrictions on democracy, human rights, and the rule of law.
Rather than fearing, dismissing or repressing, we call on governments to engage with civil society and ensure ways for its meaningful participation in decision-making at all levels, especially in times of crisis.
I thank you.