50th Session of the Human Rights Council: Joint oral statement on states' responses to pandemics

Date: 13 June 2022

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Item 2 - Interactive Dialogue on High Commissioner’s oral update on State response to pandemics (res. 44/22)

Mister President,

I speak on behalf of 18 organisations. COVID-19 and related governments policies – many overwhelmingly punitive - disproportionately impacted marginalised and criminalised communities such as people in detention, people who use drugs, sex workers, and LGBTI people, and people in need of abortion; as well as older people and persons with disabilities. This led to widespread human rights violations, and ineffective pandemic responses.

This and other pandemics have shown us the importance of centering human rights in public health, and of incorporating the guiding principles of legality, necessity, proportionality, and non-discrimination in any response.

They also proven, once again, the critical role of communities and civil society in the effective development and implementation of public health measures. We thus urge the High Commissioner to reiterate that civil society participation is a key enabler of the right to health, and a right to be guaranteed in national as well as international fora.

On this regard, we note that despite limited developments, the ongoing negotiations of a new WHO ‘Pandemic Accord’ reserve limited consideration to safeguarding human rights and still do not allow for meaningful civil society engagement – particularly of criminalised and marginalised groups.

We urge the High Commissioner and her Office to proactively engage in the discussions at WHO, beginning with the INB resumed session later this week, and we call on all Member States to ensure that – as recently affirmed by nine Special Procedures - this new instrument is grounded in human rights and “centres […] vulnerable groups and marginalized populations right health without discrimination.” 

Thank you.

Co-sponsoring organisations:

1)      Amnesty International

2)      Centre on Drug Policy Evaluation

3)      Dianova International

4)      GENDRO

5)      Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights

6)      International Drug Policy Consortium (IDPC)

7)      International Federation on Aging (IFA)

8)      International Harm Reduction Association

9)      International Network of People who Use Drugs (INPUD)

10)   Médecins du Monde International Network 

11)   Penal Reform International

12)   Royal Commonwealth Society for the Blind (Sightsavers)


14)   Students for Sensible Drug Policy (US)

15)   Students for Sensible Drug Policy International

16)   Transform Drug Policy Foundation

17)   Treatment Action Group

© 2023 Harm Reduction International.

Charity number – 1117375 | Company number – 3223265