Human Rights Day: Defending Human Rights During and After COVID-19
By: Christian Omoruyi, Intern at Office of Government Relations
Today—December 10—is Human Rights Day, an international observance that commemorates the day in 1948 when the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the first universal articulation of human rights in recorded history. The groundbreaking Declaration, drafted after the world had witnessed the gruesome atrocities and destruction of the Second World War, affirmed that all human beings are “born free and equal in dignity” and are endowed with inalienable rights. As former United Nations human rights chief Navanethem Pillay reflected, “The Universal Declaration envisaged a world in which every man, woman, and child lives free from hunger and is protected from oppression, violence, and discrimination, with benefits of housing, health care, education, and opportunity.”
Upholding human rights has proven to be all the more important during the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic has underscored that entrenched social inequities and discrimination particularly infringe on the human rights of the marginalized and those living in poverty. Individuals in societies’ lower echelons who have been deprived of rights to education, health care, and social security have disproportionately contracted COVID-19 and succumbed to the virus. COVID-19 has also precipitated a rise in xenophobic sentiments and hateful rhetoric in countries around the world. Ethnic minorities, refugees, and migrants have been falsely scapegoated and vilified as the source of viral outbreaks in what amounts to a brazen affront to their dignity.
The Episcopal Church has endorsed measures to advance the human rights of citizens around the world through social, political, economic, and cultural means. Our Church, recognizing the connection of issues such as climate action, clean water, the eradication of poverty, and robust democratic institutions with the fulfillment of human rights, supports the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Amid the pandemic, the Office of Government Relations has prioritized the defense of human dignity and human rights for all.
Eleanor Roosevelt, the matriarch of modern human rights, once remarked, “It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness.” The darkness of the pandemic provides an opportunity to ensure that human rights for everyone illuminate a post-COVID world.
The Office of Government Relations