by Raymond Andaya, Research Student, The University of Tokyo
(Photo by Brian McGowan)
On 13 May 2020, The United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (UN-OHCHR) published its Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Guidance document, outlining actions to protect those who are most vulnerable. It calls for solidarity and cooperation in coming up with ways to halt the spread of COVID-19, through methods that deem respect for the economic, social, cultural, and civil and political aspects of human rights, as essential to public health response and recovery from the pandemic. At the University of Tokyo’s International Law Training and Research Hub, we have recognized the significance of using a human rights lens to address the inequalities exposed by the pandemic, and the vulnerabilities created by this emergency situation.
Within the Hub is a group of young researchers and students investigating the complex dynamics between global issues, human rights, and international law. We firmly believe that while States and other stakeholders, such as the private sector, civil society actors, and international and local NGOs, have an important role in coming up with appropriate responses to the COVID-19 emergency, perspectives from local communities, vulnerable groups, the informal sector, the grassroots level and human rights workers within them, are equally indispensable in formulating sustainable strategies that can address the immediate and long-term challenges of this pandemic.
It is in this spirit that the UN-OHCHR’s Development, Economic and Social Issues Branch and the University of Tokyo’s International Law Training and Research Hub are partnering in building a crowdsourcing database of promising practices, implemented by governments and other stakeholders, aimed at adapting and responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. The ultimate goal of this crowdsourcing project is to share and integrate these practices into stakeholders’ crisis response frameworks, thereby boosting their contributions to Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) and Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ESCR) objectives. A team of researchers from the Hub is collecting information on COVID-19 responses from different parts of Asia. This team is managed by Professor Ai Kihara-Hunt, and includes Hub members Mr. Joshi Ratala Dinesh Prasad, Ms. Chihiro Toya, Ms. Tong Fei, Mr. Paul Hwa Namkoong, Ms. Amishi Agrawal, and Mr. Raymond Andaya.
By taking part in this project, the International Law Training and Research Hub hopes to make significant, long-term contributions towards the achievement of SDG and ESCR objectives in the context of COVID-19. The Hub fully agrees with UN High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet’s statement: “it is precisely in times of crisis that core human rights values can help us steer the best course.” In behalf of the academic community, the Hub is determined to support the UN-OHCHR in finding ways to integrate these human rights values to global crisis response.