2020 will go down in history as the year the world never imagined. COVID-19 has affected people around the world to different degrees with those in non-OECD countries being more adversely impacted. Many have been tipped into poverty because of social distancing measures, a decline in demand for goods and services and global businesses being moved into administration. Living standards are decreasing around the globe and with Christmas, Hanukkah and the New Year all on the horizon, not everyone feels festive this year.
Facts and figures
A BBC survey concluded that income in OECD countries dropped for 45% of people as opposed to 69% of respondents affected by a drop in income in non-OECD countries. In many cases it has further deepened inequalities, especially within already marginalised groups. The ILO estimates that 25 million workers will have lost their jobs with a massive disproportionate impact on women and subsistence workers.
Notably, the Equality and Human Rights Commission UK reported that human rights directly impacted by the pandemic beyond work include education, social care, justice and personal security. These all have had implications for the most vulnerable which entrenches poverty even further. Alongside this, national and international human rights bodies monitor and provide guidance to Governments to help them further identify solutions and ‘recover better’ in an sustained and coordinated approach.
10th December – The Day of Human Rights
It comes as no surprise that the theme for this year’s UN World Human Rights Day is “Recover Better-Stand up for Human Rights”. While government action is needed to uplift the economy and provide financial support, as seen in the Recovery Plan for Europe, some notable transformative acts of kindness and community spirit were reignited at both the community and local level. In the UK, it started with Clapping for Carers and the call for NHS Volunteers at the beginning of the crisis led to record numbers responding. We also witnessed local groups spontaneously springing up to help both those in isolation and the elderly. Many now see an opportunity for renewal and a more permanent change beyond the pandemic inhow we treat each other as well asvalueing our relationship to nature and caring for the planet which we all share.
At the heart of the UN Sustainable Development Goals are human rights. In that light, a better recovery at the local level, and greater awareness within society of the impact individuals have in choosing the products they buy, can be a good opportunity to give back to the local community and small businesses.
What can be done?
One idea gaining prominence, supported by the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres relates to conscious gifting projects, which inter-connects recovery from the coronavirus pandemic with climate change and sustainability.
Supporting our local communities helps to adhere with Article 29(1) Universal Declaration of Human Rights, whereby every individual in a community has duties to the community so that every person is able to achieve the optimal personal development possible. Some UK suggestions for conscious gifting that support the more vulnerable include:-
Jollie’s – with each pair of socks bought, one will be given to a shelter in the UK
Glow – glow in the dark knitwear produced by women from low socio-economic backgrounds to empower themselves.
Birdsong – clothes produced in the UK by skilled women who face barriers to employment.
Migrateful – a non-profit organisation that allows refugees to the UK to give cooking classes, helping them both to promote their culture and giving them employment as they face barriers to employment.
Toast – beer made with surplus bread to replace barley; this not only reduces food waste but is also more climate friendly.
PARK Pass-a-Ball Project – with each football purchased on this website, they will donate one to those most vulnerable in the world.
For those in the US, the following offer resources for conscious gifting:
Conscious Giving: Gifts that Give Back.
The Social Impact Holiday Gift Guide for Conscious Consumers.
A Crowdsourced Guide to Socially Responsible Gift Giving.
While some local gifting projects create more jobs in the communities, this is not sufficient and therefore greater efforts toward long-term finance transfer and support of renewables so as to create opportunities are required to ensure a just transition to bring everyone together through the rocky economic times ahead and ensuring adherence to the rule of law to move forward better together.
“Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home -- so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world. [...] Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerted citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world."Eleanor Roosevelt, 1948.
With thanks to London interns Lisa Mildt and Laure Deriaz for co-authoring this blog.
 Foreign Policy, ‘Blindsided on the Supply Side’ by Elisabeth Braw accessed on 4 December 2020 here: https://foreignpolicy.com/2020/03/04/blindsided-on-the-supply-side/
 Equality and Human Rights Commission report – How coronavirus has affected equality and human rights 2020 – “disabled people, parents and carers are most at risk of being made redundant.”, p.15