Guterres calls failure to share vaccines a “moral outrage”

The UN Secretary-General António Guterres today criticized rich countries for stockpiling COVID-19 vaccines.

“The latest moral outrage is the failure to ensure equity in vaccination efforts,” Guterres told ministerial-level meeting of the Human Rights Council on 22 February.

“Just ten countries have administered 75 per cent of all COVID-19
vaccines. Meanwhile, more than 130 countries have not received a single dose.

Vaccine equity is ultimately about human rights. Vaccine nationalism denies it. Vaccines must be a global public good, accessible, and affordable for all. ”

Guterres also expressed worries that the virus is infecting political and civil rights and further shrinking civic space. He pointed out that the pandemic is being used as a pretext by authorities in some countries to deploy heavy-handed security responses and emergency measures to crush dissent, criminalize basic freedoms, silence independent reporting, and curtail the activities of non-governmental organisations.

Digital technology

The UN Secretary-General also urged all Member States to place human rights at the centre of regulations and legislation on digital technologies.

“We have developed a Roadmap for Digital Cooperation to find a way forward,” the Secretary-General, António Guterres told the Human Rights Council.

“We need a safe, equitable and open digital future that does not infringe on privacy or dignity.”

Guterres said that access to lifesaving COVID-19 information has been concealed. Deadly misinformation has been amplified, including by those in power.

Photo by Shahadat Rahman on Unsplash

“The COVID-19 infodemic has raised alarms more generally about the growing reach of digital platforms and the use and abuse of data.”

The UN chief expressed his worries that a vast library of information is being assembled about each of us. He pointed out that behaviour patterns are being commodified and sold like futures contracts.

“Our data is also being used to shape and manipulate our perceptions, without our ever realizing it,” Guterres said.

“Governments can exploit that data to control the behaviour of their own citizens, violating human rights of individuals or groups. All of this is not science fiction or a forecast of a 22nd-century dystopia. It is here and now. And it requires a serious discussion.”

Guterres also expressed his deep concerns about persistent gender inequality and racism and urged that more be done “to bring our Human Rights Call to Action to life” given the scale of the challenge.

“I welcome the new awakening in the global fight for racial justice,” Guterres said and called for action against hate groups. “Far too often, these hate groups are cheered on by people in positions of responsibility in ways that were considered unimaginable not long ago. We need global coordinated action to defeat this grave and growing danger.”

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