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United Nations Human Rights Report 2021

Our COVID-19 response:

Examples of UN Human Rights actions In 2021, COVID-19 and its impacts continued to affect communities around the world, with the brunt of the negative effects falling on the most vulnerable.

The UN Human Rights COVID-19 Strategy 2021-2022 aims to respond to the needs of the most affected populations and places them at the heart of recovery efforts. To this end, UN Human Rights’ strategy outlines four focus areas that identify needs, opportunities and priority activities.



The COVID-19 pandemic exposed the weaknesses of social and economic systems that made insufficient investments in their fundamental public services, such as health care and social protection. The Secretary-General’s Common Agenda and New Social Contract elevated social protection and universal health coverage as global priorities that are critical for facilitating access to health care, protecting people against poverty and ensuring the enjoyment of basic economic and social rights, including food, water, housing, health and education.

The pandemic also revealed vaccine inequity as a key challenge in building back better. In addition, incidents of gender-based violence (GBV) spiked during the pandemic, particularly domestic violence and child marriage. Sexual and reproductive health services were not considered as basic and essential health services in most COVID-19 responses, resulting in an increase in maternal mortality rates and unmet needs related to sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR).

UN Human Rights will advocate with stakeholders, including governments, civil society and UN entities, in order to: promote the health and protection of particularly vulnerable populations, raise awareness about the impacts of COVID-19 and highlight the importance of social protection in COVID-19 recovery and overcome economic crises.

In 2021, UN Human Rights engaged and advocated with relevant stakeholders to promote the health and protection of vulnerable populations and to raise awareness about the impacts of COVID-19. In the Republic of Moldova, the capacities of 50 representatives of the NGO Task Force on COVID-19 and Human Rights were strengthened on protection measures. A set of 5,700 materials, including 1,600 leaflets and 4,100 informative briefs on COVID-19, were distributed through the NGO Task Force to vulnerable groups (Roma, persons with disabilities, older persons, families with many children). In Ukraine, UN Human Rights advocated with State and local authorities to undertake additional measures for protecting the life and health of homeless people, especially during COVID-19, which resulted in the opening of homeless shelters in Zaporizhzhia and Melitopol and unblocked funding for another shelter in Sumy. In Panama, a short film and related digital materials on the differentiated impacts of COVID-19 on LGBTI persons were produced and disseminated through social networks to raise the profile of the human rights concerns of LGBTI persons and support their efforts to bring about legal change and more inclusive public policies for tackling the pandemic. In the State of Palestine, 1 information on COVID-19, including on psychological and social support services from the government and NGOs, was prepared in an accessible format for persons with disabilities and their families and widely distributed. The campaign was promoted on social media channels, amassing more than 230,000 views, and on Palestinian Television, government and CSO channels. In Burundi, an awareness-raising session was delivered to penitentiary personnel and detainees of the Bubanza prison in West Burundi on measures to curb the spread of COVID-19 and to protect detainees. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Madagascar and Somalia, OHCHR advocated with authorities on measures to reduce overcrowding in prisons in the context of COVID-19. Over 3,200 inmates were consequently released from several prisons in the DRC, over 10,400 convicted detainees were granted pardons in Madagascar and 80 detainees were released in Somalia.

UN Human Rights developed guidelines and advocacy messages for field presences on vaccine equity and affordable access to all without discrimination. In Cambodia, UN Human Rights advocated for the rights of detainees and prisoners and their access to humanitarian assistance in the context of COVID-19 and to ensure that they receive adequate health care, including through access to tests and vaccines. As a result, the vaccination of all detainees was largely completed by the end of August. In Iraq, an awareness-raising campaign was undertaken in collaboration with six Iraqi NGO partners. This enabled UN Human Rights to inform minority communities about the impacts of COVID-19, health protection measures and vaccination. More than 17,000 posters were translated into six minority languages and distributed throughout 25 districts. Also in Iraq, social media campaigns were launched, 20 graphic illustrations encouraging vaccination were disseminated and a “Mask Up” campaign on protection measures reached over 160,000 viewers.

Source: UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights