Speech by UN Resident Coordinator in Azerbaijan, Mr. Ghulam Isaczai, at the Online Conference dedicated to the Human Rights Day: Recover Better – Stand up for Human Rights

First, we must review laws and policies to ensure that people who are most at risk of being discriminated against are protected.

I am delighted to be with you this morning to celebrate the Human Rights Day. 

It is befitting that this year’s celebration coincides with the conclusion of an agreement to end hostilities over Nagorno-Karabakh, a conflict that has severely affected communities in Azerbaijan for three decades. 

Human Rights Day is a reminder that human rights is a fundamental basis for peace and sustainable development. 

They help us build societies that are based on the principles of equality, justice and dignity for all. 

They also provide us with a platform to address grievances, promote reconciliation and ensure the conflict is not repeated. 

I urge you to keep this in mind as the country moves into the recovery and reconstruction phase.

This year has also been exceptional for people in Azerbaijan and around the world as they have had to deal with the dire consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic on the economy and on society. 

The crisis has led to an unprecedented emergency that has broken many lives and exacerbated inequalities, putting several SDGs at risk of achieving. 

Thousands of vulnerable people in Azerbaijan and elsewhere have lost their livelihoods and access to food, healthcare and social protection. 

Household tasks increased for women and girls, as did domestic violence against them. 

Children in many rural families were not able to catch up with the sudden shift to computer-based education. 

Older persons and those with disabilities experienced more neglect and isolation, leading to higher rates of infection and death among them.

Here I would like to acknowledge Azerbaijan’s government social and economic assistance package to the vulnerable population and small business to mitigate the impact of the pandemic on the lives and the economy. 

The good news is that several vaccines have been announced in recent weeks, which gives us hope that the crisis may be over by the beginning of 2022. However it is fundamental that the vaccine is available to all widely and equitably. 

But beyond the vaccine, we must consider the ways in which the crisis can be used as an opportunity to ensure that we do not reproduce the inequalities of the past, but rather focus on building societies where people are protected from exclusion and are better equipped to deal with extraordinary events like this in the future. 

There are three specific measures that can help us achieve this in Azerbaijan and around the world:

First, we must review laws and policies to ensure that people who are most at risk of being discriminated against are protected. 

This includes, for instance, providing more legal safeguards on Gender-Based Violence, strengthening the social protection system for groups such as migrants and persons with disabilities, and ensuring online education is used to promote universal access to education rather than create a digital divide among children.

Second, we must promote the participation of people in decisions affecting their lives. Here I cannot understate the role of civil society in amplifying the voices of least visible in society. 

In my recent trips to conflict-affected regions, I was impressed with the work of volunteers with displaced communities, providing them with vital assistance to protect themselves from COVID-19 and to cope with the loss of shelter and livelihoods. 

I hope this work continues in the next months to ensure the needs and concerns of these communities are fully accounted for in recovery plans.

My third and last suggestion is to ensure, the recovery phase maintains Azerbaijan on track for the achievement of the SDGs.

A holistic approach to recovery that is based on human rights, rather than on economic growth only will help the country stay the course to complete the 2030 Agenda. 

The decision-makers and civil society leaders to whom I spoke in recent months are aware that several SDGs have been put to the test, especially poverty, health, education and gender equality. 

Adopting a rights-based approach that mitigates the impact of COVID-19 and the recent conflict on these SDGs will be a key aspect of our cooperation with the government in the next five years.

Let me conclude by expressing my pride and gratitude for your commitment to human rights and to a world that is free from fear and want. 

This was the vision that founded the United Nations 75 years ago, and it is also the vision that will keep guiding us as we recover and reconstruct our societies.

Thank you.

Speech by
Author
Ghulam M. Isaczai
UN Resident Coordinator
RCO
Ghulam M. Isaczai
UN entities involved in this initiative
RCO
United Nations Resident Coordinator Office