A voter displays proof of having exercised her voice at the ballot box in Timore-Leste’s parliamentary elections. UN Photo/Martine Perret

Messages

2020
Secretary-General's Message

“RECOVER BETTER: STAND UP FOR HUMAN RIGHTS”

The COVID-19 pandemic has reinforced two fundamental truths about human rights.

First, human rights violations harm us all.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a disproportionate impact on vulnerable groups including frontline workers, people with disabilities, older people, women and girls, and minorities.

It has thrived because poverty, inequality, discrimination, the destruction of our natural environment and other human rights failures have created enormous fragilities in our societies.

At the same time, the pandemic is undermining human rights, by providing a pretext for heavy-handed security responses and repressive measures that curtail civic space and media freedom.

The second truth highlighted by the pandemic is that human rights are universal and protect us all.

An effective response to the pandemic must be based on solidarity and cooperation.

Divisive approaches, authoritarianism and nationalism make no sense against a global threat.

People and their rights must be front and centre of response and recovery. We need universal, rights-based frameworks like health coverage for all, to beat this pandemic and protect us for the future.

My Call to Action for Human Rights spells out the central role of human rights in crisis response, gender equality, public participation, climate justice and sustainable development.

On Human Rights Day and every day, let’s resolve to act collectively, with human rights front and centre, to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and build a better future for all.

António Guterres

António Guterres

 

2020
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights' Message

This year’s Human Rights Day falls at a time we will never forget. COVID-19 has taken us by storm and shaken our world. A tragedy followed by an extraordinary opportunity to recover better.

This Human Rights Day is a call to action. A call for all of us to seize this opportunity and build the world we want. For that, we must accept the lessons from this crisis.

One: end discrimination of any kind. Like pre-existing conditions that make individuals more fragile, gaps in respecting human rights have made all of society more vulnerable. If anyone is at risk, everyone is at risk. Discrimination, exclusion and other human rights violations harm us all.

Two: reduce widespread inequalities. Universal social protection, universal health coverage, and other systems for the delivery of fundamental rights are not luxuries. They keep societies standing and can shape a more equitable future.

Three: encourage participation, especially from young people. All voices have a right to be heard.

Four: increase and intensify our resolve and efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, a concrete Agenda for universal human rights. These are not just the right things to do –they are the smart things to do. And there is only one way they can be done: by standing up for human rights. Because human rights yield fair and resilient societies. They are the answer to this human crisis.

Like the climate emergency, COVID-19 reminds us that we are bound together as one humanity.

We must act. Working together, we can recover better.

With strong solidarity, we can build a world that is more resilient, sustainable and just.

Join me in standing up for human rights.

Michelle Bachelet

Michelle Bachelet

 

People and their rights must be front and centre of response and recovery. We need universal, rights-based frameworks like health coverage for all, to beat this pandemic and protect us for the future.

António Guterres