Growing inequality and the proliferation of multiple crises around the world have dashed hopes raised for a better, more equitable world 73 years after the U.N. General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres warns the world is at a crossroads.
“The COVID-19 pandemic, the climate crisis and the expansion of digital technology into all areas of our lives have created new threats to human rights,” Guterres said. Exclusion and discrimination are rampant. Public space is shrinking. Poverty and hunger are rising for the first time in decades. Millions of children are missing out on their right to education. Inequality is deepening.”
U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet says the cost of soaring inequalities is intolerable. But, since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted in 1948, she notes significant strides, if not progress, have been made. She says the world has grown richer, people are living longer, and more women have gained a greater measure of autonomy.
Over the past 20 years, however, she says a succession of global shocks has undermined that progress. She says it is particularly distressing to realize the extent to which inequalities are fueling the devastation caused by the coronavirus pandemic on peoples’ lives.
Bachelet recently returned from a mission to Burkina Faso and Niger, countries riven by violence and lawlessness. Her spokesman, Rupert Colville, says the high commissioner saw the ruinous impact on those societies from the pandemic, climate change, economic distress, and inequality.
Colville says Bachelet clearly understood how it is that young men who have no jobs, no future, no hope are tempted to join the armed struggle when offered a gun and $10.
“There you see the knock-on effect, which then has results in people being killed, in villages being destroyed, in women being raped and in just general horror stories, which are rooted in the socio-economic problems and inequalities that we are talking about today,” Colville said.
Human rights chief Bachelet says equality is at the heart of human rights. She says equality also is at the heart of the solutions that can carry humanity through this period of global crisis.