Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, February 25, 2021 (ECA) - A webinar was held Thursday ahead of the seventh Session of the African Regional Forum for Sustainable Development (ARFSD) gathering panelists and experts in human rights, sustainable development and finance who discussed how human rights and sustainable development frameworks can be used to ensure sustainable recovery from COVID-19 in Africa.
The session was chaired by Ms. Francesca Thornberry, Chief Adviser Human Rights and Development at the Danish Institute of Human Rights.
Ms. Hilda Oyella, a human rights officer at UN OHCHR, noted that it was critical that human rights be integrated in COVID-19 recovery plans as 'this gives us an opportunity to make-up for the overdue commitment with human rights and the 2030 Agenda'.
Human rights instruments that can guide COVID-19 recovery include the international human rights law, regional level charters and national level constitutions and statutory laws. Sustainable development goals targets also have linkages to human rights as shown by The Human Rights Guide to Sustainable Development Goals https://sdg.humanrights.sdk/
A human rights based approach can be used to support sustainable COVID-19 recovery, the panelists agreed. Governments need to look at barriers of access and how this can be factored into frameworks. They need to strengthen their healthcare systems in a manner that is holistic to human rights standards; address unemployment and job security issues while ensuring equality and non-discrimination.
Trust in institutions driving sustainable recovery is a key factor to ensure effective recovery. Institutions that enjoy public trust have been more effective in their recovery processes, the panelists noted. These institutions are usually accountable, transparent and include participation from everyone, and also taking into account data from everyone.
'This crisis could be a fertile time for policy experimentation,' said Mr. Thomas Probert, Head of Research for Freedom from Violence.
He said human rights institutions can be enablers of sustainable recovery.
Leaving no-one behind
Ms. Hellen Malinga Apila, Gender and Sustainable Development Expert at The African Women's Development and Communications Network (FEMNET), said the discrimination of women during the pandemic has been of major concern, especially as women and girls bear the burden of care. A lot of women work in the informal sector and in industries that have been adversely affected by the pandemic like travel, hospitality and tourism.
She said governments should ensure legal frameworks give women equal opportunities, adding they should also conduct sex disaggregated studies and document the contribution of women in the informal sector.
A lot of measures put in place by governments have not been able to cushion ordinary people from the effects of the pandemic, resulting in a sharp rise in inequality and poverty. Mr. Theo Chiviru, Senior Regional Co-ordinator, Africa and Middle East for the Open Government Partnership's Support Unit, stated that citizens have a right to know how governments raise funds and spend them.
Governments, he said, need to have transparent processes and ensure that citizens participate in them. Mr. Chiviru said citizens should be part and parcel of recovery strategies, adding feedback channels were also needed.
Dr. Bernard Mogesa, Commission Secretary and Chief Executive Officer at the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR), said governments need to ensure that there is no discrimination during the COVID-19 vaccine rollouts.
Mr. Mogesa noted that governments need to lessen the economic burden on their citizens through social protection measures.
The panelists agreed that human rights needed to be upheld in the recovery process and that health protocols outlined by the World Health Organization should be adhered to in the process.
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