Restrictions on civil liberties curtail efforts to build back better

Statement at the 47th Session of the UN Human Rights Council

Delivered by Lisa Majumdar

Thank you, Madame President, and thank you High Commissioner for your report.

With sufficient and shared resources, the pandemic can and will be overcome. However, the ramifications of rollbacks in hard-fought gains in civil and political rights – whether willful or unwilful – could last for generations. Continued restrictions will curtail any chance of building back better. Our collective strength to recover risks being undermined by eroding democratic safeguards, attacking human rights defenders, and stifling people’s ability to participate in public life. Our ability to prevent and respond to future crises is made stronger by – and would be impossible without – civil society participation.

The CIVICUS Monitor found that multiple States used their pandemic response to introduce or implement restrictions on civic freedoms, with far-reaching implications. Authorities in China continued their path of repression, censoring numerous articles and social media posts about the pandemic. Emergency bills drafted by Cambodia, Hungary, Serbia and Botswana granted sweeping powers to the executive and restricted human rights. The pandemic was used as a smokescreen for attacks against protesters and to undermine civil society.

Fundamental freedoms and an independent civil society are not only valuable for their own sake, but form the basis of participatory and effective governance which is essential to tackle global emergencies. To this end, we particularly support the recommendation that human rights monitoring capacity be enhanced to warn early on of potential violations, inform policies and protect human rights. The pandemic is far from over and its human rights implications are still emerging; we urge continued monitoring of and action on this issue by the Council.

Thank you.


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