11 October 2021

COVID-19 Revealed Fault-Lines in Human Rights, Says Secretary-General, Urging Forum to Put Young People at Vanguard of Europe’s Post-Pandemic Recovery

Following is the text of UN Secretary‑General António Guterres’ video message to the European Union Fundamental Rights Forum, in Vienna, being held from 11 to 12 October:

It is my pleasure to greet all of you in Vienna at the Fundamental Rights Forum.  My thanks to the European Union and partners for bringing us together.

Human rights stand at the core of everything we do.  They are our ultimate tool to help societies grow in freedom and safety; to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals; to prevent conflict, reduce human suffering and build a just and equitable world; to ensure equality for women and girls; to counter hate, racism and discrimination; to stop waging war on nature; to provide a compass in the digital world.  I launched my Call to Action for Human Rights to reaffirm fundamental freedoms as our lodestar and “humanity’s highest aspiration”.

COVID-19 exposed the interconnectedness of our human family — and of the urgency to fulfil the full spectrum of human rights — civil, cultural, economic, political and social.  At the same time, the pandemic has deepened pre-existing divides, vulnerabilities and inequalities.  It has opened up new fractures, including fault-lines in human rights.

A surge of mistrust and misinformation is polarizing societies.  Our biggest challenge — and greatest opportunity — is to use this crisis as a pivot to a greener, fairer, more just and sustainable world.  Our response must be multilateral in approach and rooted in solidarity — to one another, and across borders and generations.

Young people must be in the vanguard as we work together to restore trust by renewing the social contract and act to protect our future.  I hope your discussions today on youth and Europe’s future and on Europe’s recovery from COVID-19 will yield new ideas and inspire bold, transformative action.  I wish you every success.  Thank you.

For information media. Not an official record.