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The role of NHRIs in protecting the rights of vulnerable communities during COVID-19

Graphic: Participants during the virtual dialogue

In a virtual dialogue, APF member institutions shared how they have protected and promoted the rights of vulnerable communities during the pandemic.

The APF, in collaboration with the National Human Rights Commission of Korea, held a virtual dialogue bringing together National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) from across the Asia Pacific to share the innovative ways they have sought to uphold the rights of vulnerable communities during COVID-19.

The online event was facilitated by Pip Dargan, APF Principal Adviser, Capacity Assessments and International Engagement, with participation by APF members, prospective APF members and invited stakeholders.

The human rights implications of COVID-19

The pandemic has had a profound effect on the lives of many around the world and has led to an increase in human rights violations and a deepening of existing inequalities. Government policies relating to COVID have often resulted in controversies over privacy breaches, excessive restrictions on individual freedoms, and discriminatory practices against minority groups. 

The pandemic has also disproportionately impacted certain communities, such as ethnic or religious minorities, persons with disabilities, older persons, migrants, women and people from the LGBTIQ+ community. 

NHRIs, with their mandate to protect and promote human rights, have played an active role throughout the pandemic in ensuring that the rights of the most vulnerable have been protected. Despite many challenges, restrictions and lockdowns, they have found new and innovative ways to carry out their vital work. 

Graphic: Members of the National Human Rights Commission of Korea during the dialogue

The virtual dialogue provided an opportunity for NHRIs to share their best practices, achievements, and challenges in protecting the rights of socially vulnerable groups during the pandemic.

Presentations during the session included: 

  • The rights of older people in Korea during COVID – Yang Hwan-Oh, Director of Planning and Investigations at the National Human Rights Commission of Korea, shared how the Commission has carried out investigations and monitoring of aged care facilities to ensure the rights of older people have been respected throughout the pandemic. 
  • The impact of COVID on people with disabilities in New Zealand – Paula Tesoriero, Disability Rights Commissioner at the New Zealand Human Rights Commission, discussed the initiatives taken by the Commission to ensure protections for people with disabilities, which included providing advice to government, setting up a dedicated microsite with human rights information, and communicating consistently with local communities on their rights during COVID. 
  • Women and children in Nepal during the pandemic - COVID has highlighted underlying inequalities and discrimination and has impacted the rights of women and children in Nepal. Lily Thapa, Commissioner at the National Human Rights Commission of Nepal, shared the findings of research into the impact of COVID on the lives of women and children, and shared some of the initiatives the Commission has taken to address these issues. 

Highlights of the virtual dialogue "Advancing the role of National Human Rights Institutions for the vulnerable during COVID-19". 

The full length recording is available to watch here

The APF looks forward to hosting further dialogues bringing together member institutions to share case studies and best practices, and to identify opportunities for future collaboration on key human rights issues. 

Date: 27 May 2022

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Image credits

  1. Participants during the virtual dialogue - APF
  2. Members of the National Human Rights Commission of Korea during the dialogue - APF