Addressing Human Rights as Key to the COVID-19 Response

The World Health Organization (WHO) Director General’s recent remarks on COVID-19 emphasized that “All countries must strike a fine balance between protecting health, minimizing economic and social disruption, and respecting human rights”. Human rights frameworks provide a crucial structure that can strengthen the effectiveness of global efforts to address the pandemic.

The current COVID-19 outbreak has been described as a pandemic. The global and national COVID-19 responses have presented unique and rapidly-shifting challenges to the promotion and protection of health and of human rights of people around the world. As countries identify ways to address COVID-19, integrating human rights protections and guarantees into our shared responses is not only a moral imperative, it is essential to successfully addressing public health concerns.

The ‘enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health’ is at the heart of the World Health Organization 1948 Constitution.3 Our commitment to health as a human right must continue to serve as a beacon for how countries respond to this and other public health emergencies.