The COVID-19 pandemic threatens to accelerate the global trends of democratic backsliding and weakening respect for human rights. It is intensifying existing inequalities, hitting those who are already marginalised, subjected to discrimination and living in poverty the hardest.
The Nordic governments advocate international cooperation, solidarity, human rights and democracy in fighting the pandemic. Disproportional response measures may have serious and far-reaching repercussions for human rights and democratic principles. We are concerned that some governments are taking advantage of the pandemic by using it as a pretext for violating human rights, shrinking the democratic space and redrawing the global playing field.
"Our five governments are striving to make sure that human rights, democracy, the rule of law and gender equality are at the centre of the immediate and long-term global response." Photo Nino Alavidze/Agenda.ge
Thankfully, we have seen the international community act. UN Secretary-General António Guterres has led the way by calling for a global ceasefire so the world can focus on fighting the pandemic, and by placing human rights at the forefront. The UN human rights system, the UN humanitarian and development system and the World Health Organisation have played leading roles in addressing the important challenges of COVID-19.
In support of such efforts, our five governments are striving to make sure that human rights, democracy, the rule of law and gender equality are at the centre of the immediate and long-term global response. We must build back better and greener, and we are ready to show leadership in strengthening international cooperation in the years to come.
To that end, we need to do four things:
Now is the time to mobilise to protect and strengthen the multilateral system and the rules-based international order. The multilateral institutions need political and financial support. And the public’s trust in democracy and democratic institutions needs to be reinforced.
"Responding to the pandemic must not come at the cost of weaker democracies or more human rights violations." Photo: Nino Alavidze/Agenda.ge
Today, we will have a discussion with leading representatives of the United Nations, the European Union, the Council of Europe, UNESCO, the OSCE and civil society. Together, we are backing our words with action, taking the lead in making sure human rights, democracy, the rule of law and gender equality are at the heart of the world’s response and recovery.
We are prepared to share the Nordic experience of building trust through combining leadership with transparency, and cooperation between national and local government institutions as well as with civil society. We are also prepared to use our voice and experience whenever human rights, democracy, the rule of law and gender equality come under pressure.
Responding to the pandemic must not come at the cost of weaker democracies or more human rights violations. On the contrary, an approach based on democracy, gender equality and human rights is key to fighting COVID-19 and realising the 2030 Agenda.
Denmark: Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Jeppe Kofod Minister for Development Cooperation, Mr Rasmus Prehn
Finland: Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Pekka Haavisto Minister for Development Cooperation and Foreign Trade, Mr. Ville Skinnari
Iceland: Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Development Cooperation, Mr Gudlaugur Thór Thórdarson
Norway: Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ms Ine Eriksen Søreide Minister of International Development, Mr Dag-Inge Ulstein
Sweden: Minister for Foreign Affairs, Ms Ann Linde Minister for International Development Cooperation, Mr Peter Eriksson