May 20 2020
Past event

RightOn – How to prevent COVID-19 becoming a humanitarian disaster in the context of conflict situations, refugee and IDP populations?’

In partnership with the Permanent Missions of Denmark, Norway and the Netherlands, UNFPA, the Geneva Academy, the Human Rights Centre of the University of Essex, World Jewish Conference, the Geneva Rights Platform, and the Geneva Internet Platform, the URG has launched a new digital initiative to keep the conversation on key human rights issues going during these times of lockdowns and self-isolation.

The RightOn initiative provides a platform for debate and exchange of ideas on topical human rights issues through regular webinars, which takes place every Wednesday at 3 PM CEST. The seventh of these Wednesday Web Chats took place on 20th May 2020 and focused on the issue of ‘How to prevent COVID-19 becoming a humanitarian disaster in the context of conflict situations, refugee and IDP populations?’

The global COVID-19 pandemic and related various measures taken by governments are exacerbating the already precarious situation of persons fleeing persecution and/or armed conflict – whether within or across national borders.

Internally displaced persons and refugees are particularly vulnerable to the rapid spread of COVID-19 because, in addition to having limited access to adequate healthcare, they can hardly comply with measures of confinement and/or social distancing and have limited access to healthcare facilities. Furthermore, in places affected by armed conflict (like Syria, Yemen and elsewhere), healthcare facilities have also been destroyed or degraded, and there is significant shortage of medical equipment and medical professionals. This shortage is aggravated by a current decline in the delivery of humanitarian and development aid – due to challenges in shipping and transportation, but at risk of being further aggravated by changing priorities of donor funding.

Already vulnerable individuals face immense threats, due to both the degrading situation in camps and/or to the impossibility of leaving zones of conflict altogether.

Allegedly to protect their own populations from further spread of COVID-19, many (western) countries have opted for a policy of closed borders. This includes suspension of migratory and refugee management, as well as the factual break-down of the asylum system.

The discussion of those humanitarian challenges also contrasted in legal terms states’ obligations of due diligence to prevent the further spread of the virus with states’ obligations under international law, concerning asylum, refugee and migration management, including based upon human rights law. It also looked back into how these issues were tackled in past situations of pandemic.

A summary of the event can be found here: 

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  • May 20th 2020
  • 15:00 - 16:00
  • Public event