People's Stories Equality

Putting the Most Vulnerable First
by Global Call to Action against Poverty
Mar. 2020
1. The world is facing a global emergency affecting people and countries with no distinctions. In this particular time the Global Call for Action against Poverty (GCAP), with all its National Coalitions and Constituency Groups all over the world, wants to share its concerns and solidarity with all the people suffering from the coronavirus pandemic, and with all the communities struggling against the outbreak.
Our political motto is “Stand Together” to struggle for justice, against poverty and inequalities. Today we want to stand together with those who are suffering, with victim’s families, and with all the affected communities. We also want to share a special thanks to all the people working to stop the outbreak, in the health systems and in all other fundamental services, and to the people assisting those who are in need.
2. GCAP is active in promoting Sustainable Development in the framework of the UN Agenda 2030 with a special attention on condemning and reducing inequalities. Our main commitment since 2016 has been the Faces of Inequality Campaign, where all our National Coalitions and Constituency Groups work to show all kinds of inequalities in their countries and locally, creating spaces to make people raising their voices in order to make the slogan “Leave No One Behind” real.
In this emergency we are aware of the dangers faced by the most vulnerable. People and groups that ordinarily live in challenging situations are even more vulnerable in this emergency.
There is a special concern for the Global South, where health systems and public institutions have limited opportunities and resources to face emergencies. We need strong solidarity all over the world within and among communities and nations.
We call on governments and parliaments to take special and effective initiatives, putting the most vulnerable first. In this emergency, vulnerable groups like refugees, indigenous people, homeless people, persons with disabilities, people discriminated by work and descent and elderly people need to get the same protection as others.
We want to sustain our National Coalitions and all civil society organizations and groups of citizens working – often on a voluntary basis – to assist those in danger in this special time. We support the work of civil society at local and national levels to act concretely and to dialogue with governments in order to provide necessary assistance to people.
3. This crisis shows how universal public health systems are fundamental for the life of all countries. We call on governments to take initiatives to radically strengthen public health systems, in order to guarantee universal free access. Health is a fundamental Human Right and has to be put in place in a real way, not just proclaimed with empty declarations.
Too many people all over the world have no access to public assistance and can’t afford the cost of intensive care when needed or, worse, face a lack of technical facilities, as still happens in too many areas of the world. Consequently, we call for immediate actions to strengthen public health systems and to maintain them actively after the end of the crisis in order to work towards universal access to high-quality public health systems on a permanent basis.
Similar permanent support has to be radically improved and implemented for public scientific research to promote treatments and vaccines and to strengthen the capability of health systems to react to similar pandemic crises.
It’s not just a matter of governments at the national level. A global initiative to manage public health crises as a global issue, in solidarity and with co-responsibility, is needed.
4. Fast and adequate initiatives have to be taken beyond the medical response. There is a need to reduce the speed of the outbreak and to guarantee, now and in the future, adequate living standards. Many countries have opted for lockdowns and quarantines.
But we have to remember that the large majority of the disadvantaged population in the world (especially urban) live in crowded settlements, making it impossible to ensure physical distancing, and hence, could be the most prone to community infections.
Experts and governments across the world should consider this challenge and work out solutions that can work for communities where families live in close proximity, including taking over vast public spaces to accommodate the homeless and those with inadequate housing with facilities provided.
Furthermore, it’s very important to provide income support, facilities for debt management and even access to food to households. Smartwork is ‘smart’, indeed, but a lot of jobs can’t be done from home: taxi drivers, small traders, workers from the informal sector are paying a higher cost from the crisis. They are losing their livelihoods, and this pushes people into penury, starvation and indebtedness.
5. This emergency shows the importance of functional and accountable governments and how the provision of public financial resources has to be fast, adequate, effective and transparent.
We need daring initiatives to provide governments with liquidity and resources for income support, avoiding negative feedback that could come from non-coordinated action. We need a special initiative to reduce the burden of external debt, that is affecting too many countries, limiting their possibility to finance innovative investments.
We need also special monitoring of international trade in order to make the provision of necessary goods possible now, but also to provide a fair flow of goods tomorrow, when the crisis will be over.
6. Fast deliver and stop corruption. We must ensure quick procurement of emergency supplies, equipment and other vital resources and urgently create new health facilities to provide a timely response to those in need.
Corruption has to be stopped in the procurement processes by installing pre- and post- audit transparency measures and public reporting. There is no excuse for corruption, even when an emergency is creating a general demand for extraordinary and fast procedures.
7. If needed, governments should take into consideration requisition and nationalization of private health facilities in order to speed up delivery assistance. Moreover, we need international standards for public procurement during these crises.
8. A fundamental role has to be played by local communities and their leaders, like mayors. In many countries, we are seeing mayors able to animate citizens and coordinate the effort to prevent and protect. Delegating power to the community level is fundamental to making them resilient and to preserving the role of citizens as active members of their communities, instead of considering them as servants who have to obey orders.
Local governments bear a big responsibility to respond directly to the challenges of containing the spread of the Coronavirus, provide safety nets for its local constituents, and ensure access to medical care for the infected.
Now when most countries are on lockdowns, local governments and communities must work together to ensure proper and timely responses are in place to attend to emergencies including food, water and sanitation.
9. Health is a fundamental Human Right. We all have to share the effort to guarantee it, but we must not forget the full complex of Human Rights. The dignity of every single human being can’t be violated, even in this health emergency.
Here as well, the risk of violating democratic principles and freedoms can be high. We call governments to make all decisions to limit freedom of people through transparent democratic processes and to rigorously limit the monitoring of personal data to only required information to combat the outbreak.
10. The emergency we are facing is an opportunity to also remember that high risks are faced every day by an enormous number of marginalised people. Millions of people suffer from hunger, ebola, malaria, diarrhoea and other diseases, violence, and war.
The solidarity we will be able to build up to face this outbreak has to be maintained and used, today and tomorrow, to face all these other humiliating emergencies, even if they are affecting people with no voice.
11. We call on governments to show their commitment to put in place fast, adequate, effective and transparent action to protect the lives of everyone starting with the most vulnerable.
We call everybody to share those commitments to strengthen our capability to overcome the crisis and to Stand Together, today and tomorrow, to build a better safe and sustainable world, fighting inequalities, working for peace and justice and capable of recognising and protecting the beauty and dignity of human life for all.

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Discrimination against women and girls is a human rights violation which must not be tolerated
by United Nations Human Rights Experts
Mar. 2020
Today no country in the world is totally free of discriminatory practices, and discriminatory laws still exist in many places, affecting some of the most critical areas of women’s lives such as marriage, divorce, nationality, free movement, the right to inheritance, property, and work. Important achievements including in the field of reproductive rights, are today at stake.
Everywhere, to different degrees, women are still discriminated either through acts of State and non-state actors that explicitly or implicitly deny them the exercise of rights or through a State´s failure to adopt and implement national legislations and policies aimed at achieving gender equality and prohibiting gender-based violence against women.
Furthermore, in a context where most countries have implemented fiscal consolidation measures, women disproportionally bear the consequences of economic crisis at various levels and assume a disproportionate burden of unpaid care.
We should also not forget that women continue to be excluded from peace and reconciliation processes and mechanisms, despite the fact that they constitute one of the groups most affected by armed conflicts.
Discrimination against women and girls manifests in many forms, from women being considered inferior and excluded from cultural, political, economic, financial, social and religious power to women and girls being subjected to harmful practices, stereotypes and stigma, forced into marriages and contemporary forms of slavery, subjected to human trafficking, physical, psychological, sexual and economic and political violence and abuse, deprived of educational and employment opportunities, denied of their sexual and reproductive health rights, objectified in the media, and denigrated in songs, films, and other artistic or cultural productions and traditions. Ageism toward older women is a growing concern in many societies.
The failure to address women’s specific needs, including their reproductive and sexual health, by denying them access to dedicated health services also constitutes discrimination. Criminalization of sexual or reproductive conduct and decision-making that predominately affects women is also inherently discriminatory.
Discrimination against women and girls persists and is too often unchallenged or normalized, including in marketing of products and services that perpetuate gender stereotypes and objectifies women’s bodies.
In fact, discrimination lies at the heart of every issue faced by women regardless of their identity or status. It operates in all spheres of women’s lives and is by no means accidental; discrimination is indeed political and systemic.
It often reflects cultural stereotypes about women which international law requires States to change. The private sector also must do more to ensure systematic changes to patriarchal power structures, social norms, gender stereotypes and hostile environments that are barriers to women’s equal enjoyment of human rights in all spheres.
Structural discrimination, which exists in the public and private realms, reflects an underlying power imbalance that is intended to suppress women and relegate them to an inferior status, whether through what may be perceived as an innocuous practice which is in reality a denial of certain rights, to harmful stigma and marginalization to extreme forms of violence and femicide.
Gender inequality is the result of any of these forms of discrimination and is often exacerbated by other factors including poverty, conflict, race, age, and most systems of domination.
Thus adopting an intersectional approach to gender discrimination is of critical importance in order to understand and adequately respond to the unique forms of discrimination generally experienced by women on account of race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, age, and disability status among others.
Gender inequality is inherently unjust and an ill which undermines the well-being of all societies.
Women’s and girls’ activism and autonomous movements have been the driving forces behind the advancement of women’s human rights and gender equality, and remain ever essential. Women and girls have been at the forefront of movements for change around the world.
But 25 years on from the Beijing Platform of Action, responsibility for progress cannot continue to lie solely on the shoulders of women. While women continue to lead the struggle for equality, men are now more than ever called upon to be a part of movements for gender equality and become women´s human rights defenders.
Men and boys need to stand with women and girls as allies in the fight for gender equality and demand an end to impunity and accountability for violations of women’s rights and access to justice.
Discrimination against women and girls is a human rights violation which must not be tolerated and States must be held accountable for implementing international standards guaranteeing women’s and girls’ human rights and achieving substantive gender equality.
Structural causes for inequality and deeply entrenched discriminatory attitudes and practices must be tackled in order to achieve gender equality and a sustainable future for all.

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