International solidarity for the realization of human rights during and after the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19) – Report of the independent expert on human rights and international solidarity (A / HRC / 47 / 31) [EN/AR/RU/ZH] – World

Human rights council
Forty-seventh session
June 21-July 9, 2021
Agenda item 3
Promotion and protection of all human rights, civil,
political, economic, social and cultural rights,
including the right to development


This is the fourth report prepared for the Human Rights Council by the independent expert on human rights and international solidarity, Obiora Chinedu Okafor. In this report, submitted pursuant to Human Rights Council resolution 44/11, the Independent Expert examines how international solidarity for the fuller realization of all categories of human rights has been or has not been expressed by states and other actors in the context of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic. He referred to the serious threats to the enjoyment of human rights posed by the pandemic and the measures put in place to control it. It sets out the moral and legal justification for an obligation of international solidarity, including in the context of the pandemic, examines examples of gaps in the enjoyment of international solidarity and identifies and highlights positive expressions of this solidarity by States and non-state actors, including best practices.


1. During the period under review, the Independent Expert on human rights and international solidarity, Obiora Chinedu Okafor, presented his third thematic report to the General Assembly in October 2020, in which he discussed the link between certain forms of contemporary populism and the enjoyment or absence of international solidarity based on human rights (A / 75/180). He thanks Costa Rica and Bolivia for their positive responses to his visit requests and hopes to be able to undertake them as soon as possible, taking into account the current global pandemic and the resulting travel restrictions. He also thanked Malawi for its agreement in principle to accept such a visit and looked forward to agreeing on a mutually convenient date. He humbly reminds other States of the need to respond positively to his requests for visits.

2. A novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has swept the world since its causative agent – first known as the novel coronavirus 2019 (2019-nCoV), but currently referred to as SARS-CoV- 2 – was first identified on January 7, 2020.1 On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the COVID-19 epidemic a pandemic. As of December 2020, more than a million lives had been lost, with the toll sadly continuing to rise, although the increase is expected to decline to a significant extent by the last quarter of 2021, due to the ongoing deployment of several vaccines against the disease. Although there are currently many more people recovering from the disease, there are more and more reports of debilitating long-term effects on the health of some of them.

3. The COVID-19 pandemic and the measures taken to contain it have caused serious socio-economic hardship around the world. It is estimated that nearly 90 million people have now fallen into “extreme deprivation”. Recent reports indicate that:

a) “Quarantines, travel restrictions and [the] the foreclosure of cities has resulted in a significant reduction in demand and supply. Economic activities in transport, retail, recreation, hospitality and recreation have been affected. […] Public confidence in the health response has direct and immediate economic effects ”;

b) China is the only economy in the Group of 20 that is not expected to contract in 2020. In smaller or weaker and more dependent economies, the economic downturn has been even more severe, causing significant negative socio-economic effects . The pandemic, the measures to control its spread and the resulting severe economic downturns have, in turn, seriously threatened or harmed the enjoyment of human rights by billions of people around the world, among others. to health, life, education, food, shelter, work, freedom of movement, freedom and freedom of assembly.

4. While emphasizing the importance of human rights in shaping the response to the pandemic, in its resolution 44/2, the Human Rights Council underlined the central role of the State in response to pandemics and other health emergencies and reaffirmed that emergency measures taken by States in response to the COVID-19 pandemic must comply with States’ obligations under applicable international human rights law.

5. Yet, despite the central role that each state must play in this regard, “international health security is both a collective aspiration and a mutual responsibility”, thus underlining the importance of international cooperation, especially in times of crisis. health emergency. and pandemics, based on mutual respect. Such international cooperation, an aspect of international solidarity, which aims at the full realization of human rights, is necessary to fulfill certain legally binding international obligations assumed by most States. States are required to deploy the maximum of their available resources, individually and in cooperation, to ensure the enjoyment of social and economic rights, such as the right to health, on their territory, as well as not to prevent such solidarity between their nationals. There is no doubt that Articles 55 and 56 of the United Nations Charter, which require all States to take joint and separate cooperative action to achieve United Nations human rights objectives, require States a binding legal obligation: to cooperate, including at the current level. The mandate holder and his predecessor subscribe to and work with the definition of international solidarity contained in the draft declaration on the right to international solidarity, in which it is declared that international solidarity is the expression of a spirit unity among individuals, peoples, states and international organizations, encompassing the union of interests, goals and actions and the recognition of different needs and rights to achieve common goals. In the draft instrument, the main components of international solidarity are also identified, namely: preventive solidarity, through which stakeholders act to proactively address common challenges; reactive solidarity, collective actions by the international community to respond to crisis situations; and international cooperation. The Independent Expert recognizes that international solidarity is not a state-centric phenomenon and can be expressed, denied or violated by both state and non-state actors. Nor is it limited to international aid and cooperation, aid, charity or humanitarian assistance; it is a broader concept and principle.

7. In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, existing obligations to express international solidarity in the field of human rights, including through international cooperation, have assumed particular importance and urgency and renewed. It is therefore crucial that the way in which international solidarity has or has not been expressed by States and other actors in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, towards a more comprehensive realization of all categories of human rights, be more systematically studied and understood, including by the Human Rights Council. This report is a contribution to that goal.

8. Accordingly, in section II, the Independent Expert examines the threats to the enjoyment of all categories of human rights that the pandemic and the measures to combat its spread have engendered or exacerbated, using the law. International Human Rights Regulations, supplemented by the WHO International Health Regulations. , as a normative framework. Threats are examined in three subsections: economic and social rights; civil and political rights; and the right to development. In section III, he analyzes the imperative of international solidarity for the realization of human rights in the context of the pandemic, by outlining the ethical and legal justifications for this imperative, by arguing in favor of the legally binding nature of the obligations. highlighted. In section IV, the obligations are then set out as the normative framework for identifying gaps in international solidarity in the context of the pandemic. In section V, it identifies and highlights some positive efforts and best practices, followed by conclusions and recommendations for States and non-State actors.

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