2020-12-10 GENERAL HOUSE

Human Rights and the COVID-19 pandemic: A tug of War

Human rights are the rights and freedoms of all human beings regardless of their ethnicity, religion, gender, language, political opinion and national or social origin. They were drafted by representatives from all regions of the world and declared on December 10, 1948 in Paris by the General Assembly of the United Nations in response to the atrocities of the Second World War, recognizing their protection to be the foundation for freedom, justice, and peace. 

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights Day is observed by the international community every year on 10 December to commemorate their adoption by the UN General Assembly. The theme chosen for this year’s commemoration is “Recover Better – Stand Up for Human Rights” to draw the world’s attention to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on human rights and raise awareness of shared humanity, global solidarity, and the need for collective action and encourage pro-human attitudes and practices in the fight against the pandemic. 

According to virologists and infect ologists, the respiratory illness responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic was first identified in December 2019 in Wuhan, China. It is caused by the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) which spreads from an infected person’s mouth or nose in small liquid drops. When an infected person coughs, sneezes, speaks, sings, or breathes heavily and the liquid drops released get into the mouths, noses, or eyes of anyone in close contact.

The impact of COVID-19 pandemic is unprecedented. Its death toll and loss of livelihoods is enormous. With little or no income during lockdowns, millions of workers are unable to feed their families.  Border closures and confinement measures prevent farmers from accessing markets, and agricultural workers from harvesting their crops. This has severe consequences for the food system and supply chains. Public health, education and the labour market are also affected.

COVID and Human Rights

The human rights question in the COVID crisis for most people in the developed countries is phrased as personal rights versus the common good. But, on the other hand, there are many other human rights issues currently facing the most vulnerable of our societies. Poverty and unemployment, closure of schools, crowded refugee, internally displaced persons (IDPs) and migrant settlements camps as well as the homeless or residents of slums where lack of access to clean water and sanitation is a fundamental issue are a challenge to human rights.

For us, Marists, this time of the pandemic justifies our effort of building bridges and a global family to facilitate our response to emerging needs. The Global Marist Family Fund for Humanitarian Emergencies campaign is our global solidarity and support platform to assist the vulnerable in the crisis-stricken regions of the world.

What we need to know about the COVID-19 pandemic is not only about the death toll and loss of livelihoods.  Pope Francis, in Laudato Si and Fratelli Tutti, believes that the pandemic is an important push for the world’s aspiration to universal fraternity and solidarity as fundamental steps towards a better future, an opportunity for real systemic change. He is convinced that the pandemic has exposed our vulnerability just to unmask the false certainties around which we construct our projects, habits, and priorities, and offer us a new vision of society in which human rights and dignity would be respected.

Brother Francis Lukong – Director Assistant of the Secretariat of Solidarity


Young people's initial formation in the Arco ...


Rodrigo Gris Castro: gathering stories of Lav...