Online side-event of the 48th Session of the Human Rights Council Protection of the Right to Life and Health in the context of COVID-19 Pandemic successfully held

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On September 28, United Nations Association of China (UNA-China) and Permanent Mission of the People’s Republic of China to the United Nations Office at Geneva and Other International Organizations in Switzerland co-hosted an online side-event of the 48th Session of the HRC, entitled Protection of the Right to Life and Health in the context of COVID-19 Pandemic. Vice-President and Director-General of UNA-China Ms. HU Wenli and Minister of the Permanent Mission of China Mr. JIANG Duan addressed the opening session. Ms. HU chaired the meeting and made concluding remarks. Professor and Co-Director of the Institute for Human Rights of China University of Political Science and Law Dr. Zhang Wei, Research Fellow of Institute for Human Rights Law of Huazhong University of Science & Technology Dr. Peng Yixuan, Board Member of Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macao Studies Mr. Gary Wong Chi-him, Professor of Cross-cultural Law at Utrecht University and Director of the Cross-cultural Human Rights Centre of the Free University of Amsterdam Mr. Tom Zwart, Research Fellow at the Human Rights Center, Law School at the Central South University and Member of the European Academy of Science and Arts Mr. Peter Herrmann, Coordinator of the Center on China Studies of the International Relations Institute of National University of La Plata Dr. Maria Francesca Staiano, attended the meeting and delivered keynote speeches.

Ms. HU Wenli said, the COVID-19 pandemic poses an unprecedented challenge to mankind and gravely threaten people’s lives and health. Vaccination is powerful weapon against COVID-19. However, globally, there are still such outstanding problems as insufficient vaccine production capacity, inequitable distribution and uneven vaccination. The pandemic has put multilateralism to a severe test. Since the outbreak of COVID-19, division and politicization have been interfering with the international response, and the world has failed to form a synergy. The virus is still spreading and mutating, the international community should coordinate regular and targeted epidemic prevention and control, strengthen to study pathogenic cause of the virus and its variation strains, the spread of the virus force, the severe disease rate and the mortality. It is also important to avoid rushing to recover economy regardless of the spread of the virus, limit the virus as much as possible in the smallest transmission range, and protect vulnerable groups. All parties should provide more vaccines to developing countries, especially the least developed countries, strive to realize vaccine accessibility and affordability in developing countries, and bridge the “immunization gap”. We must adhere to the scientific spirit and resolutely oppose politicization in virus origins tracing. China has established an effective prevention and control system and achieved visible results. Local governments have made full use of big data and modern technology to carry out targeted prevention and control against sporadic small outbreaks in China. China always upholds equitable access to vaccines and strengthens international cooperation. China supports and participates in global scientific tracing, but firmly opposes any form of political manipulation. The international community must firmly safeguard multilateralism and join hands to defeat the virus with a vision of building a community with a shared future for mankind. Politicians and media in some countries with narrow nationalism incite racial discrimination and xenophobia, and deliberately create division and confrontation, which is irresponsible for people’s lives and health. The so-called the virus origins tracing led by the US intelligence communities severely damages the efforts of international anti-pandemic cooperation and violates human rights.

Jiang Duan said, the epidemic has severely hindered the economic and social development of all countries, especially developing countries, and has brought huge challenges to the enjoyment of human rights by the people. To defeat COVID-19 at an early date, all countries should put people and life first, and protect life, value and dignity of every individual. The vaccine should be recognized as a global public good and be distributed globally in a fair and equitable way to effectively bridge the “vaccine gap”. The virus origins tracing should be carried out in scientific spirits, scientific attitudes and scientific methods, opposing political maneuvering. All countries should enhance coordinated global COVID-19 response and minimize the risk of cross-border virus transmission. International cooperation should be promoted to help developing countries achieve sustainable development. With a highly responsible attitude to the Chinese people and the international community, the Chinese government has adopted the most comprehensive, strict and thorough prevention and control measures, and achieved major strategic outcomes. China has always actively engaged in and promoted international anti-epidemic cooperation with an open, transparent attitude, provided anti-epidemic material assistance to international organizations and other countries within its ability, and contributed Chinese wisdom and strength to the global fight against COVID-19. China is willing to work with all parties to advance international anti-epidemic cooperation, promote the building of a global community of health for all, and safeguard the better future for human health.

The participants shared the views that COVID-19 is posing severe challenges the right to life and health. All countries should put people and life first, uphold a scientific spirit, attitude and approach to coordinate epidemic prevention and control with economic and social development, protect the rights of vulnerable groups such as women, children, the elderly and the disabled. The virus origins tracing is not a political issue but a scientific one. The joint research between China and WHO has played a good role in the virus origins tracing in many countries and provided a scientific guide to better understand the virus. The politicization of the origins tracing by the US seriously undermine global cooperation in response to COVID-19. This has weakened the confidence of the international community to beat COVID-19. The global immunization gap is becoming more and more serious. Targets of the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX) Facility for poor countries are far from being met. All people in the world should have equal and fair access to vaccines, especially those in vulnerable or poor countries. Vaccine nationalism is extremely harmful. Some developed countries monopolize and overstock vaccines, posing a serious threat to countries with low vaccination rates and scarce medical resources. Facing combined impacts of changes unseen in a century and the COVID-19 pandemic, multilateralism is the only right way to tackle global common challenges. 

The participants called for the international community to be united, the strengthened cooperation and building strong synergy to defeat the virus. Everyone should reject stigmatization, racial discrimination, xenophobia and confrontation, and refrain from politicizing public health issues. The virus origins tracing should be jointly conducted based on science, opposing politicization. The vaccine should be recognized as a global public good, and vaccine nationalism should be firmly rejected. Developed countries should support COVAX with concrete action by providing more vaccines. Developed and developing countries need to strengthen international cooperation and promote vaccine research and development, production and equitable distribution, and make vaccines more accessible and affordable in developing countries, the least developed countries in particular. The international community should improve global governance and practice true multilateralism, safeguarding the international system with the UN at its core and rejecting any forms of small circles or zero-sum game.

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