Franciscans International: Statement on the human rights impact of the COVID-19 pandemic

As we, the entire staff of Franciscans International, are confined but healthy in our respective homes in Switzerland, the USA, and France, we are made more aware every day of our privileged situation, despite the unusual and uneasy circumstances in which confinement is putting us.

In the first weeks of this crisis, we were carefully observing not only the development of the situation but also the reaction of the United Nations (UN), other human rights experts, and States. We continue to do so. However, as it has become clear that the epidemic has definitively turned into a pandemic with a terrible death toll and that extraordinary measures will last for months, our Franciscan Sisters and Brothers, colleagues, and friends from various parts of the world are reaching out to share with us the dire situations they are experiencing, confronted with, and witnessing. It is to relay some of these testimonies and stories and to put them in a more global picture that we issue this statement today. From a human rights perspective, the issues raised by the pandemic are manifold and the impacts numerous at various levels.

From the failure of States to take the necessary measures to prevent such situations…

The last months have shown how some States have failed to take timely and necessary measures to protect the health of their populations, thus failing to comply with their international human rights obligations to protect the right to health. According to the UN,1 this protection shall include prevention, treatment and control of diseases that requires, among others “the creation of a system of urgent medical care in cases of (…) epidemics and similar health hazards, and the provision of disaster relief and humanitarian assistance in emergency situations.” Moreover, under international human rights law, the right to life also imposes a duty on States to protect life by taking adequate measures to ensure timely access to essential goods and services such as food and water, and to provide effective emergency health services or shelters.

Download and read the full statement of Franciscans International:

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