Sunday, October 25, 2020 | ePaper

Human Rights In Eliminating Social Disparity

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Human rights are possessed by the persons by virtue of their common humanity, to live a life of freedom and dignity. These rights give all people moral claims on the behavior of individuals and on the design of social arrangements --- and are universal, inalienable and indivisible. Human rights express our deepest commitments to ensuring that all persons are secure in their enjoyment of the goods and freedoms that are necessary for dignified living. Human rights are based on ethical principle of non-discrimination and fundamental freedom and are based on mankind's increasing demand for a better life in which the inherent dignity and worth of each human being will receive respect and protection. Human rights are sometimes called fundamental rights or basic rights or natural rights. Fundamental or basic rights cannot, rather must not, be taken away by any legislature or any act of the government and are often set out in a Constitution. As natural rights they are seen as belonging to men and women by their very nature.
Human rights are described in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 and in the various treaties (also called 'covenants' and 'conventions, declarations, guidelines and bodies of principles elaborated by the United Nations and by regional organization can be used as examples of human rights. They include a broad range of guarantees, addressing virtually every aspect of human life and human interaction. Among the rights guaranteed to all human beings are the right to life (not to be arbitrarily deprived of life); the right to be freed from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; the right to be presumed innocent until found guilty in a court of law; freedom from arbitrary arrest and detention; the right to a fair and public trial; the right to recognition as a person before the law, and equal protection of the law; freedom from arbitrary interference with privacy, family, home or correspondence; freedom of association, expression, assembly, movement and the right to just and safe work conditions.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) is the most important international document dealing with human rights. Although the UDHR is not a legally binding document, it has considerable moral authority and sets a standard of behavior or a guideline that countries should try and achieve or adhere to. Some of its core provisions were (like the prohibition on slave trading) or have become (like the absolute prohibition on torture) representative of customary international law, and so are binding on all States even without there being any specific treaty in place. The UNDR has also formed the basis of many international covenants and conventions. Its provisions and its underlying principles of fairness, justice and equality have been built into constitutions of many countries'.
The Covid-19 pandemic threatens to accelerate the global trends of democratic backsliding and weakening respect for human rights. It is intensifying existing inequalities, hitting those who are already marginalized, subjected to discrimination and living in poverty the hardest. The Nordic governments advocate international cooperation, solidarity, human rights and democracy in fighting the pandemic. Disproportional response measures may have serious and far-reaching repercussions for human rights and democratic principles. We are concerned that some governments are taking advantage of the pandemic by using it as a pretext for violating human rights, shrinking the democratic space and redrawing the global playing field. We have seen the international community act. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has led the way by calling for a global ceasefire so the world can focus on fighting the pandemic, and by placing human rights at the forefront. The UN human rights system, the UN humanitarian and development system and the World Health Organization have played leading roles in addressing the important challenges of Covid-19.
We must mobilize internationally. The Covid-19 pandemic is a human crisis that is fast becoming a human rights crisis. Through the Sustainable Development Goals, the international community has committed to leaving no one behind. We must uphold this commitment and ensure that all measures respect human rights. We must ensure transparency and access to reliable information. The voices of independent media and civil society, including human rights defenders, must be protected and promoted. Their monitoring and reporting will contribute to holding governments accountable. It is also imperative that we counter disinformation and propaganda, and work closely with the media, tech companies, the private sector and civil society, as well as other stakeholders. We must ensure a gender transformative perspective in the global response.
Finally, we must remain vigilant to ensure that international standards and principles do not slip. Any action to fight Covid-19 must not undermine international law, democracy or democratic institutions. Now is the time to mobilize to protect and strengthen the multilateral system and the rules-based international order. The multilateral institutions need political and financial support. And the public's trust in democracy and democratic institutions needs to be reinforced. Today, we will have a discussion with leading representatives of the United Nations, the European Union, the Council of Europe, UNESCO, the OSCE and civil society. Together, we are backing our words with action, taking the lead in making sure human rights, democracy, the rule of law and gender equality are at the heart of the world's response and recovery.
Responding to the pandemic must not come at the cost of weaker democracies or more human rights violations. On the contrary, an approach based on democracy, gender equality and human rights is key to fighting Covid-19 and eliminating social injustice and disparity. Finally, the 2030 Agenda or sustainable development goal will be fulfilled.

(Dr. Forqan is a former Deputy Director General, Bangladesh Ansar &VDP)

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