The UN’s Universal Periodic Review must respond to COVID-19

An extract from the new article published on Open Global Rights by Miloon Kothari, independent expert on human rights and social policy, and the president of UPR Info's Board. The full article is available here.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to rage across the world with no clarity of when it will subside, the UN human rights system, comprised of the UN treaty bodies and the Special Procedures mandate holders, has responded with statements, reports, and guidelines for states on how to ensure the protection of human rights during the pandemic. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) released a number of resources, including guidance for states to measure their responses, as well as a checklist for a human rights-based approach to socio-economic country responses to COVID-19.

The global human rights crisis, however, continues unabated. Some disturbing examples of this include several government's enforcement of excessive confinement measures and actions,,increased cases of police brutality, and further restrictions on freedom of expression and assembly. Inequalities in income and healthcare continue to intensify while women and girls are acutely affected by what UN Women refers to as a “shadow pandemic:” domestic violence, child marriage, and precarity of employment in the informal sector.

As the only inter-governmental, peer-review based human rights mechanism in the UN, the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is yet to respond in a systematic manner in large part because the UPR’s periodicity does not lend itself to urgent responses. However, given the scale of the human rights crisis brought on by the pandemic, the UPR must respond. And the systematic and universal nature of the UPR process is ideally suited to examine and respond with legislative and policy recommendations that not only tackle the current crisis but can assist in the eventual and long ‘build-back better’ post-COVID phase.

To read the full article, consult Open Global Rights. The article is available also in Spanish here.