Advocacy statements

Multilateralism during and after the pandemic

  • Date / 2021
  • Relevant Institution / UN Human Rights Council
  • UN Item / Item 3: Promotion and protection of all human rights, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights


International Humanist and Ethical Union 

UN Human Rights Council, 48th Session (13th September – 8th October 2021)

Item 3: Interactive dialogue with the Independent Expert on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order

Thank you Madame President.

We welcome the Independent Expert’s report and commend its broad focus. This statement is joined by 8 other NGOs.[1]

A multilateral approach to foreign policy involves putting human rights and the common good above State interests. It means prioritising the right to health over geopolitics and intellectual property interests. So we were pleased to see recommendations in the report which address the crisis of vaccine inequity, and we stress that any future International Pandemic Treaty requires a human rights-based framework for a pandemic response that protects the whole spectrum of human rights.

Successful multilateral diplomacy depends upon active engagement from civil society. We are pleased that the report references the disparities which exist between States and NGOs in accessing UN procedures, many of which have been exacerbated by the pandemic.[2]

We ask whether the Independent Expert has plans to follow up with the Council with recommendations to redress these inequalities in institutional access? One outcome we support would be for the Council to assess, through consultations, the impact of the pandemic on civil society participation, with data disaggregated by gender, geography and other indicators of diversity.

The pandemic has demonstrated that multilateralism is the best insurance policy against global threats. But the threats to multilateralism are also many. Within this Council, this includes attempts by some actors to weaken international norms of human rights and accountability, and to undermine the work of Special Procedures. We remind the Council that the equal participation of civil society is an essential defense against threats to multilateralism from within international institutions.

Thank you.


[1] Co-sponsors include International Service for Human Rights, Human Rights House Foundation (HRHF), DefendDefenders, Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, Sexual Rights Initiative, Amnesty International, Conectas Direitos Humanos and Centro de Estudos Legales y Sociales (CELS).

[2] These include delays in confirming modalities, access to information, time zone issues, language accessibility and lack of information regarding informal negotiations, amongst others. For the full report, see  https://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Issues/IntOrder/Multilateralism/AI.pdf.


Suggested academic reference

'Multilateralism during and after the pandemic', Humanists International

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