How Covid-19 Worsens the State of Human Rights in the World

The Last Rites. The photographer, Anindito Mukherjee (Photo: New Delhi, India - May 2020), is the 2020 Global Prize Recipient of the Photography 4 Humanity competition. Courtesy: UN Human Rights Office
The Last Rites. The photographer, Anindito Mukherjee (Photo: New Delhi, India – May 2020), is the 2020 Global Prize Recipient of the Photography 4 Humanity competition. Courtesy: UN Human Rights Office

The report paints a dismal picture of the failures of global leaders whose handling of the pandemic has been marked by opportunism and total contempt for human rights.

The global pandemic has exposed the terrible legacy of deliberately divisive and destructive policies that have perpetuated inequality, discrimination and oppression and paved the way for the devastation wrought by Covid-19, Amnesty International said in its annual report published on April 7.

Amnesty International Report 2020/21: The State of the World’s Human Rights covers 149 countries and delivers an analysis of human rights trends globally in 2020. In it, the organization describes those already most marginalized, including women and refugees, as bearing the devastating brunt of the pandemic, as a result of decades of discriminatory policy decisions by world leaders.

Health workers, migrant workers, and those in the informal sector – many at the frontlines of the pandemic – have also been betrayed by neglected health systems and patchy economic and social support. The response to the global pandemic has been further undermined by leaders who have ruthlessly exploited the crisis and weaponized Covid-19 to launch fresh attacks on human rights, the organization says.

“Covid-19 has brutally exposed and deepened inequality both within and between countries, and highlighted the staggering disregard our leaders have for our shared humanity. Decades of divisive policies, misguided austerity measures, and choices by leaders not to invest in crumbling public infrastructure, have left too many easy prey to this virus,” said Agnès Callamard, Amnesty International’s new Secretary General.

“We face a world in disarray. At this point in the pandemic, even the most deluded leaders would struggle to deny that our social, economic and political systems are broken.” 

Amnesty’s report shows how existing inequalities as a result of decades of toxic leadership have left ethnic minorities, refugees, older persons, and women disproportionately negatively affected by the pandemic.

Covid-19 worsened the already precarious situation of refugees, asylum seekers and migrants in many countries, trapping some in squalid camps, cutting off vital supplies, or precipitating border controls that left many stranded.

The report also paints a dismal picture of the failures of global leaders whose handling of the pandemic has been marked by opportunism and total contempt for human rights.

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Rakesh Raman