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MRG addresses the Council on Covid-19 and human rights

15 September 2020

Human Rights Council – 45th Session
Geneva, Monday 14th September 2020

Enhance Interactive Dialogue – Oral Update of the High Commissioner on Covid-19 and human rights – item 2

Thank you Madame President,

Madame High Commissioner,

Six months after Covid-19 was declared a global pandemic by the WHO, mounting evidence has shown that minorities and indigenous peoples are disproportionately and adversely affected by the pandemic and by state responses to the crisis.

Available data has shown that ethnic, racial and religious minorities and indigenous peoples are not only at greater risk of contracting the virus but can also face higher rates of mortality once infected. Low socio-economic status associated with poor health outcomes, lack of the necessary resources to implement preventive measures such as social distancing and access to water and hygiene products, and difficulties accessing health services are among the reasons for their higher vulnerability to the virus.

Minority Rights Group has recently released a briefing to mark the 6-month milestone, in which we have documented how the pandemic has seen the stigmatisation of certain already-marginalized communities, which have been blamed for spreading the virus, a narrative that has even been encouraged and promoted by some politicians, officials, religious leaders or mainstream media. This has fuelled further incitement to hatred and violence against certain minorities who were already being targeted before the health crisis.

In addition, MRG’s report shows that official state responses to fight the spread of the virus have in many countries been characterised by discriminatory measures, institutional racism and excessive use of force to implement restrictions on movement in areas dominated by ethnic minorities and migrants.

MRG calls on this Council to step up its efforts to recognize and address the disproportionate impact of Covid-19 and measures taken to contain it on minorities and indigenous peoples. In addition to addressing their immediate healthcare needs, local and national response and recovery strategies should incorporate a range of measures to improve access to food relief, safe housing, clean water, adequate sanitation and other services that address the underlying factors that can increase vulnerability to the virus.

Recovery plans should also include economic aid packages that target the most affected by loss of livelihoods and income, targeting especially those in the informal sector, women and people with disabilities, and be inclusive of all workers in the country regardless of citizenship or documented status.

I thank you.