The COVID-19 pandemic is not just a health crisis; it is a human rights crisis. Around the world, governments are taking advantage of the disease to seize power and crack down on dissent. In the United States, the Trump administration has used the pandemic to implement policies stripping asylum-seekers of rights. At the same time, the government leaves countless people locked in prisons and detention centers, where the disease is rampant.
Everywhere, the impact of the disease is magnifying injustices that long pre-date the crisis. Environmental racism, colonialism, and white supremacy make the pandemic particularly devastating for Black and Indigenous communities. Displacement and inequality are putting refugees and poor people on course for humanitarian catastrophe. The virus may not discriminate; but unjust social structures do.
UUSC’s partners are already contending with the worst human rights impacts of the virus. Among them are:
- Women leaders confronting gender-based violence in Honduras;
- Refugees struggling for justice in overcrowded camps in Bangladesh;
- Indigenous communities fighting for clean running water and sewerage;
- Immigrant organizers representing essential workers on the frontlines of the crisis; and
- Central American community groups working to support people deported from the United States, after in some cases being infected with COVID-19 in U.S. custody.
These brave community leaders deserve a response from global authorities that advances human rights. There can be no solution to the COVID-19 pandemic that does not also address the systemic inequities and injustices this virus has laid bare.
We urge you to add your name via our signing box below to UUSC’s Statement of Conscience in defense of a human rights-centered COVID-19 response, and keep scrolling to read the full text of the Statement!
Also, please continue to check back on UUSC’s COVID-19 response page for updates from our partners and further chances to take action.
Statement of Conscience
80 years ago, UUSC was founded in a time of economic depression, war, and the rise of fascism. Today, our world is once again seeing interlocking threats to human rights, this time in the form of economic collapse, pandemic disease, and authoritarianism fueled by racism.
As members and supporters of UUSC, we recognize that our history and the demands of the present call us to take bold action to defend human rights. In an effort to ensure these rights are centered in the global response to the COVID-19 pandemic, we affirm the following five principles:
Global solidarity is essential. There is no way out of this crisis that does not recognize that a threat to any member of humanity is a threat to us all. As the pandemic creates new risks of food insecurity, extreme poverty, and unemployment throughout the world, particularly in the Global South, we must reject policies rooted in isolationism and indifference. We commit to an equitable response for all.
Patriarchy is the problem. The COVID-19 crisis is gendered, meaning it disproportionately impacts women, including in the form of higher rates of social exclusion, unemployment, and magnifying the risks of gender-based violence in the home setting. We commit to upholding and following women’s leadership in responding to the crisis, and urge governments to do the same.
White supremacy is killing us. The long history and present reality of settler colonialism, extractive capitalism, and white supremacy have made this pandemic far more deadly than it otherwise would have been, particularly for Black and Indigenous people. Any solution to the COVID-19 crisis must also address environmental racism, mass incarceration, and the dispossession of Indigenous peoples.
Displacement breeds catastrophe. War, genocide, persecution, climate crisis, and neoliberal policies have already generated record levels of forced displacement around the globe, long before COVID-19 was a factor. The result is that millions of displaced people are now at heightened risk from the pandemic. In driving people from their homes, governments sowed the wind, and will reap the whirlwind.
Social protections save lives. Protecting humanity from the virus and its economic fallout requires a more equitable distribution of resources. Famine and economic depression can only be staved off by bold political action. We commit to supporting responses to the crisis that protect livelihoods and ensure access to the essential bases of life for all people, regardless of where they live.
Photo Credit: iStock – yuoak