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SG/SM/20484
9 December 2020

People Must be Front, Centre in Response to Pandemic, Secretary-General Says in Human Rights Day Message, Calling for Universal Rights-Based Frameworks

Following is UN Secretary‑General António Guterres’ message on the Human Rights Day 2020 theme “Recover Better:  Stand Up for Human Rights”, observed on 10 December:

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 front‑line 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.

For information media. Not an official record.