Tina Alai (Kenyan human rights lawyer), Karyn Kaplan (Asia Catalyst), Margaret Mbira Omondi (Women Concerns Center, Kenya) and Prem Pramoj Na Ayutthaya (Rainbow Sky Association, Thailand) meet online to compare notes on how COVID-19 is fueling violence against women, from girls in evacuation camps in rural Kisumu, Kenya, to transgender women isolated in lockdown in urban Bangkok, Thailand. They found some surprising commonalities. Community-based activists and human rights advocates like themselves are putting marginalized communities at the center of their work, and finding ways to work together, using international human rights standards, to find a way out of this crisis.
With restrictions in many countries on nongovernmental organizations, and sweeping new laws coming into play in response to COVID-19, is space closing for civil society, journalists and other whistleblowers in global health? Leading international activists and journalists debated this question from national and international perspectives, on 19 May 2020, as part of the Graduate Institute’s 73rd World Health Assembly week. Co-organised by the Global Health Centre, STOPAIDS and Medicus Mundi International.
Gargeya Telakapalli, Research Associate, People’s Health Movement
Mercy Korir, Medical Doctor; Journalist, KTN News, Kenya
Mike Podmore, Executive Director, STOPAIDS; Chair, Action for Global Health
Nadejda Dermendjieva, Executive Director, Bulgarian Fund for Women
Thomas Schwarz, Executive Secretary, Medicus Mundi International
Moderated by Meg Davis, Special Advisor, Strategy and Partnerships, Global Health Centre
Episode 2 of the Right On Podcast: Human Rights Activists Respond to COVID-19 explores criminalization and policing. Many countries are now seeing the most significant deployment of law enforcement and national defense forces since World War II. Should they be arresting people who refuse to follow lockdown regulations? Or will aggressive policing, abuse and criminalization only undermine trust and fuel the virus? Should we also be considering the labor rights of frontline police officers? Can human rights offer us a way forward out of this crisis?
No easy answers, but it was a real delight to explore these questions with three inspiring activists who are also friends: Edwin J. Bernard (HIV Justice Network), Felicita Hikuam (AIDS and Rights Alliance of Southern Africa), and Mikhail Golichenko, a Russian lawyer. Actually, Patrick Eba suggested, on the first episode, that we talk to the HIV Justice Network, and it was a great suggestion. The second episode is now being edited and will air Friday, May 15, 2020 on Apple, Spotify, Soundcloud, and Stitcher. Continue reading →
The COVID-19 lockdown has proven economically devastating, and to enable people to move freely and start national economies moving also, many governments are exploring digital contact tracing. Mobile phone apps that track individual movements can enable real-time health surveillance and case management. However, once it exists, that data on health and individual movements can pose real threats for everyone—particularly for women and girls, and for marginalized and disfavored groups. Racing to embrace digital contact tracing without putting laws and policies in place to address the stigma surrounding the epidemic, and to protect the rights of those most marginalized, risks undermining the goal of epidemic control. Continue reading →
In this first episode of Right On: Human Rights Activists Respond to COVID-19, we talk to three leading human rights experts: law professor Scott Burris (Temple University), Patrick Eba (UNAIDS country director, Central African Republic) and Yaqiu Wang (China researcher, Human Rights Watch) and ask them: What are the tradeoffs we should make between individual freedoms and the greater public good? What are tradeoffs we just cannot not accept? And what can we learn from over 30 years of fighting for human rights in the response to HIV and tuberculosis? Moderated by Meg Davis in Geneva.
I am excited to announce the first episode of my newest podcast project: Right On! Human Rights Activists Respond to COVID-19. In the midst of the first wave of this crisis, it seems a good moment to spark a larger conversation that sustains, nourishes and grows the global health and human rights movement.
Beginning May 1, every two weeks I’ll sit down with a few inspiring activists and experts from academia, the UN and civil society – from Africa, Europe, the Americas, Asia, everywhere – to hear their views on tough ethical and legal questions and share about their lives and journeys as local and global leaders.
The first episode will air May 1: “When the virus comes in the door, do human rights go out the window?” when I’ll sit down with Prof. Scott Burris (Temple University), Dr. Patrick Eba (UNAIDS), and Yaqiu Wang (Human Rights Watch). See more about these amazing speakers here, and sign up to get a message when the episode is ready to hear online. We’ll continue the conversation on Facebook and Twitter.
As countries scramble to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, the world is seeing a massive roll-out of lockdowns, quarantines, and military and police deployments unlike anything we have experienced before. What does this mean for human rights – especially for people who were already marginalised and struggling to survive? Will populist and authoritarian rulers use the crisis as an excuse to expand surveillance, shutting down criticism in ways that threaten privacy, autonomy and accountability? A panel of leading experts on human rights from China, Kenya, the World Health Organization and UNAIDS explore these questions, and how the UN and civil society are responding to them.
Allan Maleche, Founding Executive Director of Kenya Legal and Ethical Issues Network on HIV and AIDS
As a member of a COVID-19 working group at the Graduate Institute’s Global Health Centre, I’ve been monitoring some human rights issues emerging in the response. Here’s a quick update as of April 6, 2020.
More than 3.9 billion people, or over 50% of the world’s population are now on some form of lockdown, with growing military and police enforcement of regulations. Human Rights Watch has warned that some authoritarian states are using the COVID-19 crisis as an excuse to expand their powers, and has documented abuses linked to enforcement of lockdown and quarantine regulations in numerous countries. In South Africa, over 17,000 people have been arrested, with reports of abuse; abuses have also been reported in the UK, Kenya, Bangladesh, the Philippines and elsewhere. As the ranks of national guards and law enforcement forces swell to include volunteers and others who may have had limited training or professional experience, managing law enforcement may cause new challenges as their deployment stretches over weeks or months. Continue reading →
A few weeks ago – it feels like longer, given the COVID-19 crisis – I sat in a studio at the UN in Geneva with BBC journalist Imogen Foulkes, Sarah Brooks (ISHR) and Daniel Warner for a great chat about China at the United Nations. You can hear the conversation here .
Foulkes asked the panel: After years of marginalization, China is exercising growing influence at the UN, increasing its UN spending and heading five UN agencies. But what does China’s commitment to multilateralism mean in practice? Continue reading →
Right before everything got cancelled due to the COVID19 outbreak, I joined a panel of experts on the Inside Geneva podcast to discuss China’s changing role at the UN. With the US taking a step back from multilateral engagement, China’s leader, Xi Jinping, has pledged that China will step forward – but what has happened in practice? We explored this in relation to health, human rights and other areas.
The picture is changing rapidly today, with the US fumbling to respond to a rapidly escalating coronavirus outbreak, and China offering aid and supplies to many countries. But here’s what we thought two weeks ago.