[Repost] Statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary General – on Myanmar

2 February 2021

The Secretary-General strongly condemns the detention of State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, President U Win Myint and other political leaders on the eve of the opening session of Myanmar’s new Parliament.  He expresses his grave concern regarding the declaration of the transfer of all legislative, executive and judicial powers to the military.  These developments represent a serious blow to democratic reforms in Myanmar.

The 8 November 2020 general elections provide a strong mandate to the National League for Democracy (NLD), reflecting the clear will of the people of Myanmar to continue on the hard-won path of democratic reform.  The Secretary-General urges the military leadership to respect the will of the people of Myanmar and adhere to democratic norms, with any differences to be resolved through peaceful dialogue. All leaders must act in the greater interest of Myanmar’s democratic reform, engaging in meaningful dialogue, refraining from violence and fully respecting human rights and fundamental freedoms.

The Secretary-General reaffirms the unwavering support of the United Nations to the people of Myanmar in their pursuit of democracy, peace, human rights and the rule of law.

Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General

https://www.un.org/sg/en/content/sg/statement/2021-01-31/statement-attributable-the-spokesperson-for-the-secretary-general-myanmar


[Repost] ASEAN Chairman’s Statement on The Developments in The Republic of The Union of Myanmar

2 February 2021
  1. ASEAN Member States have been closely following the current developments in the Republic of the Union of Myanmar.
  2. We recall the purposes and the principles enshrined in the ASEAN Charter, including, the adherence to the principles of democracy, the rule of law and good governance, respect for and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms.
  3. We reiterate that the political stability in ASEAN Member States is essential to achieving a peaceful, stable and prosperous ASEAN Community.
  4. We encourage the pursuance of dialogue, reconciliation and the return to normalcy in accordance with the will and interests of the people of Myanmar.

https://asean.org/asean-chairmans-statement-developments-republic-union-myanmar/


Open letter from civil society organizations concerning the current tensions and conflicts and the situation of local people affected by war in ceasefire area in Karen State in Southeastern Myanmar

2 February 2021

To

U Win Myint

President

Republic of the Union of Myanmar

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi

State Counsellor

Chairperson of the National Reconciliation and Peace Centre

Republic of the Union of Myanmar

20 January 2021

Subject: Open letter from civil society organizations concerning the current tensions and conflicts and the situation of local people affected by war in ceasefire area in Karen State in Southeastern Myanmar

Dear President U Win Myint, and State Counsellor and Chairperson of the National Reconciliation and Peace Centre Daw Aung San Suu Kyi,

In relation to the above mentioned matter, we, the undersigned (172) civil society organizations and networks, are gravely concerned and would like to sincerely request you to immediately take action and resolve the tensions and conflicts between the Myanmar Tatmadaw (Myanmar military) and the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) under the control of the Karen National Union (KNU). The increasing armed engagements between the two armed actors have displaced almost 4,000 people who have been forced to flee their homes and taking shelter in adjacent areas in Hpapun, Thaton and Nyaunglaypin Districts during this challenging time of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In December 2020, we learned that the Myanmar Tatmadaw ignored the provisions contained within the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) and began to expand the presence of its troops in Hpapun District and other areas designated under the KNU’s control, creating tension between the Myanmar Tatmadaw and the KNU, resulting in armed clashes breaking out between the Mae Wei based Myanmar Tatmadaw troops and a battalion of KNLA troops (under KNU control), since 1 December. Over 3,000 civilians have had to flee to avoid the fighting in Hpapun District as the Myanmar Tatmadaw troops shelled in areas where villagers were working for their livelihoods, including inside and outside villages. In addition, on 12 January 2021, the Infantry Battalion 404 of the Myanmar Tatmadaw shelled Mae Cho Village Tract in Hpapun District killing a 35-year-old village chief. Furthermore, on 15 January, an 11-year-old boy was seriously injured as the Light Infantry Battalion 339 of the Myanmar Tatmadaw intentionally continued its artillery shelling of Mae Wei Village in Hpapun District. The boy is now receiving medical treatment. We call on the government to bring justice for those who have suffered casualties and to ensure that such incidents do not take place again.

At present, we have learned that the tensions between the two groups are rising, leading to deterioration of trust. We believe that an end to tensions and fighting between the two sides is difficult, particularly if the Myanmar Tatmadaw continues its military movements in KNU designated areas in contravention of the NCA.

In addition, 790 villagers from four villages in Nyaunglaypin District have had to flee to avoid the ongoing fighting between the KNU troops and the Myanmar Tatmadaw since 28 December 2020, as the Myanmar Tatmadaw entered into KNU designated territories. On 19 January, a 41-year-old man was injured by the artillery shelling of the Light Infantry Battalion 603 of the Myanmar Tatmadaw in Pae Kaw Hkee Village in Kyaukkyi Township. We have learned that villagers are especially concerned that this will lead to the expansion of armed clashes in the region as the Myanmar Tatmadaw have reinforced their troops in KNU controlled areas in Hpapun and Nyaunglaypin Districts since December 2020. We are particularly concerned of the continued displacement of ethnic people at a time when the country is striving for national reconciliation and long-lasting peace in the pursuit of a genuine federal democratic country.

Upon observing the catalyst for such conflict and tensions between the NCA signatories – an ethnic armed organization, the KNU, and the Myanmar Tatmadaw – we have found that the Myanmar Tatmadaw broke the NCA as they have taken positions and expanded deployment, giving different excuses, including in the name of development projects. Therefore, we call on the government, elected by the people, to look towards national reconciliation and genuine sustainable peace, and to immediately implement the calls made by more than 10,000 villagers from 12 villages in Luthaw Township who protested on 30 December 2020, to stop the Myanmar Tatmadaw from invading the KNU controlled territories and expanding its forces in contravention of the NCA’s agreements, among other calls.

In our country, civil war has been raging for more than 70 years and it is still far from the genuine peace that our people aspire to today. Furthermore, we believe that the Myanmar Tatmadaw’s use of state funds to continue using military force across Myanmar, particularly in ethnic areas is inappropriate and leads us further astray from peace.

In the time of conflict, women and children are the most vulnerable to human rights violations, including sexual violence, and their rights to education and healthcare can be impacted. As Myanmar is a signatory to the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), Myanmar is obligated to protect the rights of women and children in line with these conventions.

Finally, it is our belief that the armed conflicts in ethnic areas in Myanmar and its root causes are political in nature and must be solved by political means. To solve this political issue via political means, we, the undersigned civil society organizations, would like to respectfully call on the President and State Counsellor to develop political opportunities and means of solution, as well as to withdraw and stop the expanding deployment and occupation of the Myanmar Tatmadaw in ethnic areas.

Respectfully,

Signed by:

  1. ဒို့မြေကွန်ရက်
  2. စစ်တောင်းသံစဉ်လူမှုကွန်ယက်
  3. မေတ္တာရှေ့ဆောင်လူမှုအဖွဲ့ (သံတောင်ကြီ:)
  4. သင့်မြတ်လိုသူများ ငြိမ်းချမ်းရေးပရဟိတအဖွဲ့
  5. အားသစ်ရောင်ခြည်အဖွဲ့
  6. ရွှေပန်းပျိုးလက် (ကလေးသူငယ်များယဉ်ကျေးလိမ္မာရေးနှင့် အကြမ်းဖက်မှုပပျောက်ရေးအဖွဲ့)
  7. လူမှုရေးရာသုတေသနအဖွဲ့
  8. ကျေးဇူးတော်နှလုံးသားဖောင်ဒေးရှင်း
  9. ဂီတရပ်ဝန်း
  10. အစ္စလာမ့်တံခွန်လူမှုကူညီရေးအဖွဲ့
  11. ရှစ်လေးလုံးမျိုးဆက်သစ် (မိုးညှင်း)
  12. သံဖြူဇရပ်မြို့နယ်လုံးဆိုင်ရာမွန်လူငယ်အဖွဲ့အစည်း
  13. ရွှေခြင်္သေ့တောင်သူကွန်ယက်
  14. ကမ်းခြေအလှဖွံ့ဖြိုးတိုးတက်ရေးကွန်ယက်
  15. ကမ်းခြေအားမာန် ရေလုပ်သားငယ်များဖွံ့ဖြိုးတိုးတက်ရေးအဖွဲ့
  16. ပန်းတိုင်ရှင် အမျိုးသမီးဖွံ့ဖြိုးတိုးတက်ရေးအဖွဲ့
  17. ရောင်နီဦးလူမှုဖွံ့ဖြိုးရေးအဖွဲ့
  18. စာဖြူလယ်သမားဦး‌ဆောင်အဖွဲ့
  19. အနာဂတ်အလင်းသစ်လူငယ်ဖွံ့ဖြိုးရေးအဖွဲ့
  20. ပုံရိပ်စစ် လူမှုဖွံ့ဖြိုးရေးအဖွဲ့
  21. ပွင့်ဖြူဖွံ့ဖြိုးတိုးတက်ရေးအဖွဲ့
  22. မင်းဘူးတောင်သူအစုအဖွဲ့
  23. မင်းလှတောင်သူအစုအဖွဲ့
  24. ဂန့်ဂေါဖွံ့ဖြိုးတိုးတက်ရေးအဖွဲ့
  25. ပုံတောင်ပုံညာတွဲလက်များ
  26. ငြိမ်းချမ်းရေးကွန်ယက်
  27. လွတ်လပ်သောအရှိုချင်းအမျိုးသားများအင်အားစု
  28. ဝံလက်ဖောင်ဒေးရှင်း
  29. မြန်မာနိုင်ငံမသန်စွမ်းသူများရှေ့ဆောင်အဖွဲ့
  30. ဗေဓါ လူမှုဖွံဖြိုးရေးအဖွဲ့
  31. တွံတေးကွန်ရက်
  32. မျိုးဆက်သစ် (ရှမ်းပြည်)
  33. အလင်းသစ် ကျေးလက်ဒေသဖွံ့ဖြိုးရေးအဖွဲ့
  34. အားမာန်သစ် ကျေးလက်ဒေသဖွံ့ဖြိုးရေးအဖွဲ့
  35. 3 Dimension Community Development Group
  36. Accountable Actions for Arakan
  37. Action Committee for Democracy Development
  38. Action Group for Farmer Affair
  39. Active Women Development Initiative
  40. AISANA
  41. Ann New Generation
  42. Ann Women Generation Network
  43. Arakan CSO Network
  44. Arakan Students’ Union
  45. Assistance Association for Political Prisoners
  46. Association of Human Rights Defenders and Promoters
  47. Athan – Freedom of Expression Activist Organization
  48. Ayayarwaddy Youth Network
  49. Ayeyarwaddy Transparency and Accountability Association
  50. Ayeyarwaddy West Development Organization (Ngaphae)
  51. BEE House
  52. Bilin CSO Network
  53. Burma Monitor
  54. Burmese Women’s Union
  55. CAN-Myanmar
  56. Center for Social Integrity
  57. Charity Youth Organization
  58. Child Protection Network
  59. Chin Human Rights Organization
  60. Chin MATA Working Group
  61. Citizens Action for Transparency
  62. Colorful Girls Organization
  63. Community Response Group (ComReG)
  64. Crown School of Capacity Building and Leadership
  65. CSO Thaton
  66. Democracy, Peace and Women’s Organization
  67. Democratic Education Corner
  68. Equality Myanmar
  69. Farmers and Land Workers Union (Myanmar)
  70. Farmers Development and Environmental Watch Group
  71. Freedom and Labor Action Group
  72. Future Light Center
  73. Future Young Pioneer Organization
  74. Gaia Organization
  75. Gender Equality Network
  76. Generation Wave
  77. Genuine People’s Servants
  78. Golden Future Social Development Organization
  79. Gracious Heart Foundation
  80. Green Rights Organization
  81. Halcyon
  82. Harmony Youth Association
  83. Htoi Gender and Development Foundation
  84. Htum Thit Sa Rural Development Organization
  85. Human Rights Educators Network
  86. Human Rights Foundation of Monland
  87. Humanity Institute
  88. IFI Watch Myanmar
  89. iSchool Myanmar
  90. Justice Movement for Community (Innlay)
  91. Kachin National Youth Network
  92. Kachin Women’s Association Thailand
  93. Karen Affairs Committee
  94. Karen Environmental and Social Action Network
  95. Karen Human Rights Group
  96. Karen Institute of Strategic Studies
  97. Karen Organization for Relief and Development
  98. Karen Peace Support Network
  99. Karen Refugee Committee
  100. Karen Rivers Watch
  101. Karen Student Network Group
  102. Karen Teachers Working Group
  103. Karen Women’s Organization
  104. Karen Youth – Rangoon
  105. Karen Youth Network
  106. Karenni Human Rights Group
  107. Karenni State Farmer Union
  108. Kayah Earthrights Action Network
  109. Keng Tung Land Group
  110. Kyaukkyi Development Watch
  111. Kyaukpyu Rural Development Association
  112. Let’s Help Each Other
  113. Light Social Development Organization
  114. Lighthouse Social Development Organization
  115. Literature Garden Organization
  116. Maramagri Youth Network
  117. Maye Bon Youth Association
  118. Metta Development Foundation
  119. Min Bra Youth Association
  120. Mrauk-U Youths Association
  121. Mro Youth Association
  122. Myanmar Cultural Research Society
  123. Myanmar People Alliance (Shan State)
  124. National Indigenous Women Resource Center
  125. National Network for Education Reform
  126. Nyan Lynn Thit Analytica
  127. Olive Organization
  128. Open Development Foundation
  129. Oway Institute
  130. Pa-O Women’s Union
  131. Pa-O Youth Organization
  132. Pauktaw Public Center
  133. Paung Ku
  134. Paungsee Myittar Organization
  135. Peace Working Committee
  136. Progressive Voice
  137. Rakhine Youth New Generation – Network
  138. Rambree Youth Network
  139. Rathedaung Youth Network
  140. Regional Development Organization
  141. Reliable Organization
  142. Saytanashaesoung CSO
  143. Shan MATA
  144. Shan State Peace Task Force
  145. Shan Women Development Network
  146. Southern Youth Development Organization
  147. Swamsutyi CSO
  148. Synergy – Social Harmony Organization
  149. Ta’ang Legal Aid
  150. Ta’ang Women’s Organization
  151. Takapaw Group
  152. Taungoke Youth Network
  153. Thandar Rontwee Youth Network
  154. The Seagull:Human Rights, Peace & Development
  155. Thet Youth Organization
  156. True Friends
  157. Union of Karenni State Youth
  158. Waingmaw CSOs Network
  159. Women Empowerment and Development Organization (WE DO)
  160. Women Generation
  161. Women’s League of Burma
  • Burmese Women’s Union
  • Kachin Women’s Association Thailand
  • Karen Women’s Organization
  • Karenni National Women’s Organization
  • Kayan Women’s Organization
  • Kuki Women’s Human Rights Organization
  • Lahu Women’s Organization
  • Pa-O Women’s Union
  • Shan Women’s Action Network
  • Ta’ang Women’s Organization
  • Tavoy Women’s Union
  • Women’s for Justice

162. Women’s Organizations Network

163. Yangon Watch

164. Zinlum Committee (Tanphaye)

165. Zomi Students and Youth Organization

166. Summer Shelter Library

167. Kanbawza youth library

168. Enlightened Myanmar Research Foundation

169. Kayah Baptist Association – Christian Social Service and Development Department

170. Women for Women Foundation

171. YOUNITY

172. Kawyaw National Youth Organization


[Repost] Laos: After eight years, civil society worldwide demands the government establish and reveal Sombath’s fate and whereabouts

25 January 2021

Link to original post

Jan 13, 2021 | DFFStatements

On the eighth anniversary of the enforced disappearance of Lao civil society leader Sombath Somphone, we, the undersigned organizations, reiterate our calls on the government of Laos to reveal his fate and whereabouts, and to investigate all allegations of enforced disappearances in the country to bring those responsible to justice in fair trials.

The government’s ongoing failure to thoroughly, independently, and impartially investigate the cases of Sombath and other alleged victims of enforced disappearance is compounded by its total lack of commitment to address this issue.

In June 2020, during the third Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Laos at the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council, the government refused to accept all five recommendations calling for an adequate investigation into Sombath’s enforced disappearance. The government also refused to accept another eight recommendations calling for investigations into all cases of alleged enforced disappearance.

Despite the government accepting that “the search for missing Lao citizens, including Sombath Somphone, is the duty of the Lao government”, it failed to demonstrate any will to effectively execute or fulfill this duty. The government stated that investigations into cases of enforced disappearances were “considered on a case by case basis,” but did not reveal how many investigations it had conducted, for which cases, or any updates on developments in the alleged investigations. It also failed to provide any information about its efforts to determine the fate and whereabouts of Sombath Somphone.

In addition, the government failed to further commit to ratifying the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance – a treaty that Laos signed in September 2008.

We renew our call for the establishment of an independent and impartial investigative body tasked with determining Sombath’s fate and whereabouts. The new body should receive international technical assistance in order to conduct a professional and effective investigation in accordance with international standards.

We also urge the Lao government to ratify the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance without delay, incorporate its provisions into the country’s legal framework, implement it in practice, and recognize the competence of the UN Committee on Enforced Disappearances to receive and consider communications from or on behalf of the victims in accordance with Article 31 of the Convention.

We stand shoulder to shoulder with all victims of enforced disappearance in Laos and their families, and we will not stop demanding that all their cases be independently, impartially, and effectively investigated, and the perpetrators of such a serious crime be identified and held accountable in fair trials, regardless of their rank or status.

Sombath was disappeared, but our combined determination to seek truth, justice, and reparations for his enforced disappearance will never go away. Our commitment is as strong today as it was eight years ago. We are still asking “Where is Sombath?”

Background

Sombath was last seen at a police checkpoint on a busy street of the Lao capital, Vientiane, on the evening of 15 December 2012. Footage from a CCTV camera showed that Sombath’s vehicle was stopped at the police checkpoint and that, within minutes, unknown individuals forced him into another vehicle and drove him away in the presence of police officers. CCTV footage also showed an unknown individual driving Sombath’s vehicle away from the city center. The presence of police officers at Sombath’s abduction and their failure to intervene strongly indicates state agents’ participation in Sombath’s enforced disappearance.

Lao authorities have repeatedly claimed they have been investigating Sombath’s enforced disappearance but have failed to disclose any new findings to the public since 8 June 2013. They have neither met with Sombath’s wife, Shui Meng Ng, nor provided her with any updates on their investigation into his case since December 2017. Relatives of people who are forcibly disappeared are themselves victims of enforced disappearance and have the right to a remedy for violations of international human rights law. They frequently suffer harm, including mental anguish and material consequences, which may amount to torture or other ill-treatment.

Signed by:

  1. 11.11-Belgium
  2. Alliance Sud
  3. Alternative ASEAN Network on Burma (ALTSEAN-Burma)
  4. Amnesty International
  5. ARTICLE 19
  6. ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights
  7. Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances
  8. Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)
  9. Bangladesh Working Group on External Debt (BWGED)
  10. Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights
  11. Campaign for Human Rights in the Philippines
  12. CCFD-Terre Solidaire
  13. Center for Prisoners’ Rights
  14. Civil Rights Defenders
  15. CLEAN (Coastal Livelihood and Environmental Action Network)
  16. Commonwealth human Rights Initiative (CHRI)
  17. Covenants Watch
  18. Cross Cultural Foundation
  19. Environics Trust
  20. Europe Solidaire Sans Frontières (ESSF)
  21. Federación Latinoamericana de Asociaciones de Familiares de Detenidos-Desaparecidos
  22. FIAN International
  23. FIDH – International Federation for Human Rights
  24. Focus on the Global South
  25. Four Freedoms Forum
  26. Fortify Rights
  27. Freedom Against Censorship Thailand (FACT)
  28. Fresh Eyes
  29. Fundacion Solón
  30. Human Rights Watch
  31. International Coalition against Enforced Disappearances
  32. International Commission of Jurists
  33. International Rivers
  34. Internet Law Reform Dialogue (iLaw)
  35. Justice for Iran
  36. Justice for Peace Foundation
  37. Lao Movement for Human Rights
  38. League for the Defence of Human Rights in Iran
  39. MADPET (Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture)
  40. Maldivian Democracy Network
  41. Manushya Foundation
  42. MARUAH
  43. Mekong Watch
  44. Odhikar
  45. Pakistan Kissan Rabita Committee
  46. People’s Watch
  47. Project SEVANA South-East Asia
  48. Taiwan Association for Human Rights
  49. The Corner House
  50. Transnational Institute
  51. Vietnam Committee on Human Rights
  52. WomanHealth Philippines
  53. World Organisation Against Torture
  54. World Rainforest Movement

Individuals

Achin Vanaik

Andy Rutherford

Angkhana Neelapaijit

Anna Polony

David JH Blake

Francine Mestrum

Jesus Santiago

Katherine Bowie

Keith Barney

Larry Lohmann

Leang Bunleap

Natalia Scurrah

Nick Buxton

Nick Hildyard

Sarah Sexton

Shui Meng Ng

Soren Bo Sondergaard

Thierry Kesteloot

William Nicholas Gomes


[Statement] Urgent Civil Society Letter on Ugandan Elections

17 January 2021

[Statement] The ongoing business of strengthening the UN human rights treaty bodies

17 January 2021

[Repost] ANFREL Quarterly Newsletter – Volume 6, Issue 4 (October – December 2020)

17 January 2021

2020 Myanmar General Elections:
Election Day Peaceful, Orderly

The Asian Network for Free Elections (ANFREL) congratulates the people of Myanmar and all those who made the 2020 Myanmar General Elections a success despite difficult conditions. ANFREL found that the Election Day was peaceful and orderly across Myanmar with no major incidents reported.

As the polls were held amid the COVID-19 pandemic, health guidelines were imposed and were observed to have been implemented well, although social distancing could not be implemented in many locations because of large crowds and/or lack of available space.

ANFREL mounted an international election observation mission to Myanmar’s 2020 general elections with 13 long-term observers and eight short-term observers with additional Election Day observers, a core team based in Yangon, and four electoral analysts.

Download the interim report and the rest of this newsletter here.


[Repost] Article by MARUAH Secretary Braema Mathi in Q1 2021 edition of “Directors Bulletin” published by the Singapore Institute of Directors

6 January 2021

This article first appeared in the Q1 2021 issue of the SID Directors Bulletin published by the Singapore Institute of Directors. Please click on the excerpt below for Braema’s full article.


[Joint statement] CSOs Condemn Targeting Killing of Afghan Activist and Call for Justice

3 January 2021

24 December 2020

We, the undersigned organisations, strongly condemn the killing of elections monitor and democracy advocate Mohammad Yousuf Rasheed in Afghanistan and urge the authorities to bring those responsible to justice.

On the morning of 23 December 2020, Rasheed, executive director of the Free and Fair Election Forum of Afghanistan (FEFA), was shot by unknown gunmen in Kabul when he was traveling to his office. He later died from injuries in the hospital.

The killing and ongoing threats of violence aim at creating fear and intimidation among those promoting peace and democracy in Afghanistan. In recent months, targeted killings and threatening of prominent figures, including civil society activists, journalists and politicians have been increasing disturbingly. The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) recorded 934 civilian casualties caused by targeted killings from January to September 2020, a 39 per cent increase compared to the same period last year.

We condemn this heinous crime and stand by the people of Afghanistan in support of their aspirations for sustainable peace and democracy. It is essential for the Government of Afghanistan to conduct fair and impartial investigations into these cases and end the impunity of those responsible for the attacks.

Endorsed by,

  1. Asia Democracy Network (ADN)
  2. Asian Network for Free Elections (ANFREL)
  3. Center for Monitoring and Research (CeMI)
  4. Centre for Monitoring Election Violence (CMEV), Sri Lanka
  5. Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA), Sri Lanka
  6. Citizen Congress Watch (CCW), Taiwan
  7. Civil Network OPORA, Ukraine
  8. Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (Bersih 2.0), Malaysia
  9. Committee for Free and Fair Election (COMFREL), Cambodia
  10. European Network of Election Monitoring Organizations (ENEMO)
  11. Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN), Pakistan
  12. Global Network of Domestic Election Monitors (GNDEM)
  13. Jaringan Pendidikan Pemilih Untuk Rakyat (JPPR), Indonesia
  14. Komite Independen Pemantau Pemilu (KIPP), Indonesia
  15. MARUAH, Singapore
  16. National Democratic Institute (NDI)
  17. National Election Observation Committee (NEOC), Nepal
  18. Nepal Law Society, Nepal
  19. Neutral & Impartial Committee for Free & Fair Elections in Cambodia (NICFEC), Cambodia
  20. Odhikar, Bangladesh
  21. People Network for Elections in Thailand (P-NET), Thailand
  22. People’s Alliance for Credible Elections (PACE), Myanmar
  23. People’s Action for Free and Fair Elections (PAFFREL), Sri Lanka
  24. Perkumpulan untuk Pemilu dan Demokrasi (PERLUDEM), Indonesia
  25. Transparency Maldives (TI Maldives), Maldives
  26. Transparent Elections Foundation of Afghanistan (TEFA), Afghanistan
  27. Women Caucus for Politics, Timor-Leste

Last update: 28 December 2020 (11.30am UTC+7)


[Repost] UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Press Conference Opening Statement – The Toll of 2020!

10 December 2020

9 December 2020

2020 is a year none of us will ever forget. A terrible, devastating year that has scarred so many of us, in so many ways.

At least 67 million people infected, and 1.6 million dead, in a pandemic that is far from over.

A devastating impact on countries’ economies and on employment, income, education, health and food supply for hundreds of millions of people.

A massive setback to development, to efforts to alleviate poverty and to raise the status of women and girls.

2020 has taken its toll not only across all regions and virtually all countries, but also on the full range of our human rights, be they economic, social, cultural, civil or political. COVID-19 has zeroed in on the fissures and fragilities in our societies, exposing all our failures to invest in building fair and equitable societies. It has shown the weakness of systems that have failed to place a central focus on upholding human rights.

Recent weeks have seen extraordinary progress in vaccine development. This is testimony to the ingenuity and determination of humans in a time of crisis. But vaccines alone cannot resolve the pandemic, or heal the damage it has caused.

States need not only to distribute these vaccines equitably all over the world – they need to rebuild economies, repair the damage done by the pandemic, and address the gaps that it has exposed.

We face three very different possible futures:

  • We can emerge from this crisis in an even worse state than when it began – and be even less well prepared for the next shock to our societies.
  • We can struggle mightily to get back to normal – but normal is what brought us to where we are today.
  • Or we can recover better.

The medical vaccines that are being developed will hopefully eventually deliver us from COVID-19, albeit not for many months yet. But they will not prevent or cure the socio-economic ravages that have resulted from the pandemic, and aided its spread.

But there is a vaccine to hunger, poverty, inequality, and possibly – if it is taken seriously – to climate change, as well as to many of the other ills that face humanity.

It is a vaccine we developed in the wake of previous massive global shocks, including pandemics, financial crises and two World Wars.

The name of that vaccine is human rights. Its core ingredients are embedded in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, whose 72nd anniversary we celebrate tomorrow, on Human Rights Day. The Universal Declaration is made actionable through the obligations that almost all States have undertaken by ratifying one or both of the International Covenants spanning all five areas of human rights.

The Universal Declaration also gave birth to other important international treaties to better protect the rights of specific groups such as children, women, people with disabilities and migrant workers; and ones aiming to tackle forms of discrimination which lead to the greater inequalities, poverty and lack of development that have fed and fertilized the socio-economic devastation caused by COVID-19.

COVID-19 has shone a stark spotlight on our failure to uphold those rights to the best of our ability, not just because we couldn’t, but because we neglected to – or chose not to.

The failure of many countries to invest sufficiently in universal and primary healthcare, in accordance with the right to health, has been exposed as extremely short-sighted. These vital preventive measures are costly, but nothing like as costly as failing to invest in them has proved to be.

Many governments failed to act quickly or decisively enough to halt the spread of COVID-19. Others refused to take it seriously, or were not fully transparent about its spread.

Astoundingly, even to this day, some political leaders are still playing down its impact, disparaging the use of simple measures such as wearing masks and avoiding large gatherings. A few political figures are even still talking casually of “herd immunity,” as if the loss of hundreds of thousands of lives is a cost that can be easily borne for the sake of the greater good. Politicizing a pandemic in this way is beyond irresponsible – it is utterly reprehensible.

Worse still, rather than bringing us together, the response to the pandemic has in some places led to further division. Scientific evidence and processes have been discounted, and conspiracy theories and disinformation have been sown and allowed – or encouraged – to thrive.

These actions have plunged a knife into the heart of that most precious commodity, trust. Trust between nations, and trust within nations. Trust in government, trust in scientific facts, trust in vaccines, trust in the future. If we are to bring about a better world in the wake of this calamity, as our ancestors undoubtedly did in the wake of World War II, we have to rebuild that trust in each other.

It has been shocking, but sadly not at all surprising, to see the disproportionate toll of COVID-19 on individuals and groups who are marginalized and suffer discrimination – in particular people of African descent, those from ethnic, national or religious minorities, and indigenous peoples. This has been the case in some of the world’s richest countries, where the mortality rate of some racial and ethnic minorities has been up to three times that of the overall population.

When COVID-19 hit, members of discriminated groups and indigenous peoples were over-exposed to contagion because of their low-paid and precarious work in specific industries. Many of the people we suddenly started to recognize and refer to as essential – health care workers, cleaners, transport workers, shop employees – come from such minorities.

They were also under-protected because of limited access to health-care and social protections, such as sick leave and unemployment or furlough pay. They were less able to isolate themselves once infected – due to inadequate living conditions, limited access to sanitation, the inability to work from home. This meant the virus could spread much more easily within their communities, and from those communities back into wider society.

Over the past 11 months, the poor have become poorer, and those suffering systemic discrimination have fared worst of all.

Children in homes with limited or no Internet access or computer equipment have fallen behind in their education, or dropped out of it altogether, with girls especially badly affected. In terms of basic economic security, employment, education, housing and food, the pandemic is having a negative impact that is so vast and so wide-ranging it is almost impossible for us to grasp its enormity.

Had adequate social and economic protections been in place for a much higher proportion of the world’s population, in poor countries and in rich ones – had we applied the human rights vaccine – we would not be in such a bad state as we are today. COVID-19 has very clearly demonstrated that inequalities and discrimination not only harm the individuals who are directly affected, and unfairly impacted – they create shock waves that ripple across the whole of society.

This was shown most graphically when the coronavirus ripped its way through shockingly ill-prepared and underequipped institutions such as care homes for older people and people with disabilities, orphanages, migrant dormitories and prisons. A compelling case, if ever there was one, for better regulated institutions and increased alternatives to incarceration.

Those who were most critical to saving lives were themselves inexcusably put at risk, with shortages of masks and protective clothing as the pandemic surged through the wards. Health workers are only some 2-3 percent of national populations, yet they comprise around 14 percent of COVID cases reported to the WHO.

The impact on women has been particularly devastating. Because of the horrendous increase in domestic violence all across the world, and because a large proportion of women work in the informal sector and in health care. And because many were left with no choice but to withdraw from the labour market in order to care for children no longer able to go to school, and for older people and the sick. In some areas, women’s rights risk being set back decades, including through more limited access to sexual and reproductive rights.

If we are to recover better, women will need to play a much greater role in decision-making and priority-setting. It is no coincidence that in a world where so few countries have women leaders, several of the countries viewed as having handled the pandemic most effectively were in fact led by women.

Discrimination also lies at the heart of another of 2020’s defining features, when racial injustice and police brutality were brought sharply into focus by the killing of George Floyd and the worldwide protests that followed. In many countries, we saw a burgeoning realization of persistent racial injustice and systemic racism, raising unresolved histories of racist oppression, and demanding far-reaching structural changes.

In countries in conflict, COVID has added an additional layer to already multi-faceted human rights calamities. In Yemen, a perfect storm of five years of conflict and violations, disease, blockades, and shortage of humanitarian funding, set against an existing backdrop of poverty, poor governance and lack of development, is pushing the country remorselessly towards full-scale famine. There has been no shortage of warnings about what will happen in Yemen in the coming months, but a distracted world is doing little to prevent this very preventable disaster.

Rights to free expression, to assemble and to participate in public life have been battered during the pandemic. Not because of warranted restrictions on movement to constrain the spread of COVID, but by the actions of some governments taking advantage of the situation to shut down political dissent and criticism, including by arresting civil society actors and journalists. Some appear to have also been using COVID fears and restrictions as a way to tilt elections in favour of the ruling party.

The contribution of civil society to surviving the pandemic and recovering better once it is over, will be absolutely vital, and the curtailing of civil society’s contributions is one of the surest ways of undermining that recovery, by removing one of the key remedies.

The pandemic has left us exposed, vulnerable, and weakened. Yet, in its devastation, it has also provided clear insights on how we can turn disaster into an opportunity to reset our priorities and improve our prospects for a better future.

Even with stretched resources, the main ingredient that we need to build that future is political will. The will to put our money where it is most needed – not wanted, needed. The will to fight corruption, because in many countries, even very poor countries, there is more money available, but much is lost when it goes straight into the pockets of a few. We need to address inequality, including with tax reforms that could help fund major socio-economic improvements.

Similarly, richer countries need to help poorer countries survive this crisis and recover better. Repairing the frayed system of multilateralism will be essential to manage the recovery. The work must begin at home, but leaders in powerful countries need to once again recognize that, more than ever, our world can only meet global challenges through global cooperation.

Narrow nationalistic responses will simply undermine collective recovery. The first test of this will be our ability to ensure that new COVID vaccines and tools reach everyone who needs them. The pandemic has highlighted over and over again that no one is safe until everyone is safe.

Will we seize this moment to devise ways to recover better? Will we properly apply the human rights vaccine that can help us build more resilient, prosperous and inclusive societies? Will we take the immediate necessary steps to combat the biggest existential threat of all, climate change?

Let’s hope so. Because if we do not, especially with regard to climate change, 2020 will simply be the first step on the road to further calamity.

We have been warned.

For more information and media requests, please contact: Rupert Colville – + 41 22 917 9767 / rcolville@ohchr.orgor Ravina Shamdasani – + 41 22 917 9169 / rshamdasani@ohchr.orgorLiz Throssell– + 41 22 917 9296 / ethrossell@ohchr.orgor Marta Hurtado – + 41 22 917 9466 / mhurtado@ohchr.org

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