帕特里斯·瓦哈德博士（Dr PATRICE VAHARD）
帕特里斯·瓦哈德博士（Dr PATRICE VAHARD）
RESPONSE TO COVID-19 AN OPPORTUNITY TO RECLAIM DECLINING HUMAN SOLIDARITY AND UPHOLD HUMAN CENTERED INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION
REMARKS BY Dr PATRICE VAHARD
REMARKS BY Dr PATRICE VAHARD
Ladies and gentlemen,
I thank Professor WANG Xigen for inviting me and I have the honor, together with my colleagues from UN Human Rights to join this panel of acclaimed scholars to exchange views and opinion on the contribution of both the response to COVID-19 to human rights and on the reverse, human rights contribution to a sustainable global response to this pandemic.
I am privileged to work for the United Nations, in the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the department responsible for the promotion and protection of the human rights of all, including through technical support to State institutions, civil society organizations and other actors for the integration of human rights into their policies, programmes and activities. Our support aimed at helping them to meet their basic needs and aspirations for peace, stability and development in a comprehensive manner. I am also honoured to address you as an African, witnessing the greatest opportunity of our time to demonstrate the authenticity of his commitment to human worth and dignity.
By undermining all health security systems and response capacities, the COVID-19 pandemic challenges the world to think outside the box, to rake every corner and shake every stone in the search for sustainable solutions in a spirit and perspective of equality. Within this framework, cultural rights will have to be rethought and put to use by revaluing the genius of different cultures.
I greet you from Guinea, where I am currently working. The people of this beautiful country benefit in many ways from cooperation with China, particularly in the context of the response to COVID-19.
I have come to this conversation with a simple message: The response to COVID-19 is an opportunity to defend the right to development, which, as you know, an inalienable human right by virtue of which every human person and all peoples are entitled to participate in, contribute to, and enjoy economic, social, cultural and political development, in which all human rights and fundamental freedoms can be fully realized.
In the context of the spread of COVID-19, millions of Africans have been outraged by reports of mistreatment of African students, migrants and youths in several countries, including China. Human rights defenders on the continent and, I believe, in China too, were deeply saddened by this situation and these acts contrary to human dignity and solidarity. We were appalled because these images undermine any chance of consolidating and sustaining the gains of more than half a century of relations of cooperation and solidarity between the Chinese and African peoples, and highlight the worst of our human nature. I have read the news reports and official reactions to these incidents. I am equally outraged by the stigmatization and hate speech against Chinese peoples in several parts of the world and in Africa. Sadly, xenophobia has gained momentum around us in the present context of COVID-19 and maybe be fuelled by misinformation. You will agree with me that hatred and xenophobia are the opposite of cooperation and solidarity and unacceptable. We can act together to end them. The time is now. If left unchecked, hate speeches and xenophobic reactions certainly give pretext to populism and nativism. These unfortunate evils benefit no one; no nation, no individual. A push back on human rights presents us with the challenge of rising above emotions and re-unite to reverse the declining trends on human solidarity and international cooperation for the benefit of humanity. I am pleased to see that this seminar pursues this goal.
As a United Nations official, I suggest that we draw inspiration from the United Nations position on the centrality of human rights in any response to this pandemic. This will ensure that, as the world recovers, its builds back on the foundations of human worth and dignity laid out in the UN Charter.
As an African, I will appeal to my ancestral values drawn from the first known human rights treaty, the XIIIth century Kurukan Fouga Charter, which evokes this same message. This instrument of human rights and international humanitarian law gives primacy to solidarity and cooperation as pillars of protection and respect for the rights of the most vulnerable individual or group. In my cultural heritage, we are educated to be an embodiment of the social concept of Ubuntu. The African concept of ubuntu conveys the notion that individual rights can and should be realised within the communal cohesion and not at the expense of the group. Ubuntu translates the notion that the African is a person that belongs to his/her community and is not defined outside of this reality. Ubuntu also implies that the life, welfare, and integrity of the group are conditioned by ‘active participation’, which is the respect and promotion of the rights of the individuals constituting it. According to this concept, we must measure our value and place in society against our contribution to the well-being of our fellow human beings and be guided not only by written laws, but also by our social responsibilities. In this context for example, a real man does not rape or abuse women; he protects them and ensures the well-being of all. The woman is not inferior of slave to a man; but a partner with specific roles, rights and responsibilities in the up keeping of the family and the group. She is raised to serve as peacemaker, manager and decision-maker in matters affecting society. The leader is the servant, not the oppressor who rules through fear and terror. Today, I admit that these values have been relegated to the glorious parts of Africa’s distorted and under documented history while the barbaric dehumanising practices seem to resist the test of time. Most of the African value system has also been eroded by either the new way of thinking, acting and behaving inherited from colonization, or poor governance and lack of leadership manifested in families and homes as well as in the public sphere. At times, failing to draw inspiration from African value systems emanate from the combination of all of the above. My limited and distant knowledge of Chinese civilization suggests that you too have enjoyed and continue to enjoy the benefits of equity and solidarity as you strive to heal from the evils of exclusion and deprivation. I submit that the Response to COVID-19 is an opportunity for a paradigm shift that will enable us to embrace the universalism of human dignity and cultural diversity as the wealth we should nurture; and never take for granted.
I will challenge the audience to reassess the advancement of humanity as seen in technological and scientific breakthrough against the backdrop of rising identity based exclusion and inequities. I will invite Chinese scholars to join the battle of ideas about human rights as universal in nature and purpose.
In addition to China's comprehensive and fruitful cooperation with several countries and continents, special emphasis be placed on cooperation with Africa in advancing human rights in the framework of South-South cooperation.
To this end, I have the following suggestions - to enable us to transform the response to COVID-19 into an opportunity to promote a more humane world.
1. To begin, it is more than urgent that we act together to combat hatred and misinformation. These two evils constitute the main obstacles to stopping the spread of COVID-19 and eventually defeating it.
2. It is possible and desirable to bring together students, teachers, grassroots community associations, researchers, journalists and human rights institutions from African countries and China to learn from each other; to change perceptions and realities and to act together against any form of stigmatization or discrimination.
3. The same applies to cooperation in the corporate world so that Chinese companies in Africa and those from Africa cooperating with China effectively contribute to reducing inequalities, promoting accountability and stand in unity against any form of discrimination and other forms of denial of the rights of the most vulnerable populations.
Together we can also do the followings:
4. Intensify counselling and advocacy with governments, city councils and local communities, women, youth and religious leaders to stand against stigmatisation, hatred and discrimination against foreigners and those who are different from us.
5. Give equal attention to all human rights because advancing our work on a model of development in which economic, social and cultural rights are fully realized cannot be at the expense of a safe and inclusive civic space.
6. Help children, young people, men and women to internalize the ideals of human dignity and values through formal and informal human rights education programmes. University exchange programmes and seminars of this kind are only some of the ways forward.
7. I invite us to embody the universalism of human rights and the values and ideals we stand for. There is no point in lecturing about what we do not practice. We must be models of human solidarity and cooperation centred on the well-being of the human person.
Because, as we see, COVID-19 does not discriminate between races, genders and wealth, I would argue that there has been no greater opportunity than the response to and recovery from COVID-19 to experience the unity of our humanity in its diversity.
Thank you for listening to me.