United Nations, Geneva

Photo: WCC

“Unsurprisingly, the impact upon human rights resulting from the global pandemic of COVID-19 was a recurring theme throughout the four weeks,” said Jennifer Philpot-Nissen, programme executive for Human Rights and Disarmament for the WCC Commission of the Churches on International Affairs.

The WCC made a statement about its concerns for the situation of people in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, where the population density and high levels of poverty have exacerbated infections despite the imposition of curfews and closures.

The suffering of people and the environment as a result of the inter-twined climate and global health emergencies was raised in a joint statement by the Interfaith Forum on Climate Change, Environment and Human Rights, of which WCC is an active member.

The further exacerbation of violence against children caused by the outbreak of COVID-19 was the focus of a joint statement made by 11 child rights and faith based organisations including WCC.

Another call for governments to address violence against girls and women, and ensure access to comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services, was made in a joint statement with Catholic organisations who are leading the call to address the issue of obstetric fistula as a human rights concern.

WCC joined three statements focusing on country-specific situations. The first expressed concerns about how, in Algeria, over the last two years 13 Protestant churches have been closed by force. Several organisations joined in the second, denouncing escalating violence and shrinking space for civil society in the latest human rights violations in West Papua, Indonesia. A third joint statement on Syria expressed concern about the ongoing conflict.

WCC delivered statements during the adoption of the Universal Periodic Reviews of two countries, for which WCC-led reports had been submitted in the lead-up to the reviews. Engaging with partners in Jamaica, groups of children were consulted and reported their fears of violence in their lives, and WCC urged the government to treat levels of violence as an epidemic, and respond with more extensive, coordinated and far-reaching measures. For the review of Liberia, the WCC and partners expressed concern about the devastating social and economic impacts caused by the civil war, Ebola virus and now COVID-19. In addition, the statement expressed concerns for the risk of statelessness in Liberia as well as the inadequate access to birth registration which is prevalent in the country.