“People around the world are in need of our solidarity”: Humanitarian assistance and human rights

“People around the world are in need of our solidarity”: Humanitarian assistance and human rights

“People around the world are in need of our solidarity”: Humanitarian assistance and human rights, © MFD / Elyas Alwazir

15.05.2020 - Article

The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated humanitarian emergencies and created new challenges in the sphere of human rights. In the Bundestag, Foreign Minister Maas appealed for global solidarity and called for human rights to be protected and strengthened.

COVID-19: Humanitarian pandemic

The world is facing huge challenges as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The virus is particularly dangerous for those who were already reliant on humanitarian assistance before the crisis. The Bundestag is therefore holding a debate today on the impact of the pandemic on the humanitarian situation.

Foreign Minister Maas stressed:

COVID-19 is not simply a health crisis.“ ”It is increasingly becoming a humanitarian pandemic – in a world in which even without the virus twice as many people depend on humanitarian assistance as Germany’s total population.

People who are affected by armed conflicts, migration, displacement or natural disasters often live in very cramped quarters, suffer from malnutrition and are at greater risk of illness following severe physical exertion. It is hardly possible for them to adhere to precautionary measures such as social distancing or hygiene regulations. In addition, national healthcare systems are often weak and overburdened.

300 million euros for humanitarian emergencies

Germany is therefore providing 300 million euros so that the spread of the pandemic can be curbed in humanitarian emergencies – for example, testing is to be expanded and access to water and sanitation improved.

Germany is thus responding to the United Nations’ appeal, which was initially for two billion US dollars. Last week, the United Nations updated its Response Plan: it has been determined that 6.7 billion US dollars is now needed. “That is why we will have no choice but to increase our contributions yet again”, stated Maas. “Because only when the virus’ spread has been contained around the world will we all be safe in the long term.”

Measures to combat COVID-19 must remain legitimate and proportionate

Maas went on to say that the virus had a democratic element: everyone is affected by it and everyone is subject to restrictions. “Neither money nor power will protect you from the virus”, summed up Maas. All states therefore have to take protective measures – measures which should not be used to undermine the rule of law or restrict fundamental rights longer or to a greater extent than absolutely necessary.

Foreign Minister Maas stated:

All states have a duty to impose protective measures in response to COVID-19 – and these measures may temporarily restrict human rights. But such action must be taken for legitimate reasons. It must be proportionate.

Strengthening and protecting human rights

That is why Germany backs the European Commission’s efforts to oversee the emergency measures taken by individual states and is working on new ways to give human rights defenders all the support it can in the current situation. Germany is working to protect and strengthen human rights also in times of crisis, not only as a member of the Human Rights Council.


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