Human Rights Panel discussion on Indigenous People and COVID-19

This year the annual panel of the Human Rights Council focused on the rights of indigenous people and how the covid-19 pandemic has affected them. Ilze Brands Kehris, the United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, commented on how the pandemic has highlighted the equalities and systemic racism against indigenous people and how this has led to them being disproportionately being affected by the pandemic. She noted that indigenous children, women, and those with disabilities were at a higher risk of being affected by the pandemic. She stressed the importance of having indigenous people participate in the United Nations especially in areas that affected them.

Megan Davis, Chair-Rapporteur, Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous people, stated that indigenous people still faced several challenges due to Covid-19. She also commented on the importance of allowing indigenous people to speak on matters affecting them. She said that during the pandemic some countries have taken steps to have greater engagement with indigenous people however other countries have undermined the rights of the indigenous population.

Jose Francisco Cali Tzay, Special Rapporteur on the rights of Indigenous people, stated the indigenous people also lack adequate access to health care and are more likely to die from Covid-19. Indigenous people were also more likely to suffer greater socio-economic effects from the pandemic.

The panel also paid tribute to the indigenous people who died during the pandemic and highlighted their concern on how some countries have used the pandemic to undermine and harass indigenous communities.

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