Human Rights Council
22 February–19 March 2021
Agenda items 2 and 3
Annual report of the United Nations High Commissioner
for Human Rights and reports of the Office of the
High Commissioner and the Secretary-General
Promotion and protection of all human rights, civil,
political, economic, social and cultural rights,
including the right to development
The present report, covering the period from 1 January to 31 December 2020, is submitted pursuant to Human Rights Council resolution 43/8. It contains information on relevant developments concerning United Nations human rights bodies and mechanisms, and on the activities undertaken by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) that contribute to the promotion of and respect for the provisions of the Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities, and the provisions of relevant international human rights treaties. The report concludes, inter alia, that the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic has had a broad range of disproportionate and adverse negative impacts upon minorities. It recommends that States act with a sense of urgency to improve the protection of minorities as the pandemic unfolds and in their efforts to build back better and strengthen the mechanisms for dialogue to ensure the effective participation of minorities in decisions that affect them.
In July 2020, the Human Rights Council adopted its resolution 43/8 on the rights of persons belonging to national or ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities. In that resolution, the Council requested the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to continue to present a report to it annually.
The world has rarely experienced a simultaneous, global shock as complex as COVID-19. Today’s multifaceted health crisis and its associated economic consequences have unmasked the strong link between ethnicity, socioeconomic status and health outcomes. COVID-19 has had a broad range of disproportionate and adverse impacts upon national, ethnic, religious and linguistic minority communities. To guide the human rights response to the crisis, OHCHR issued detailed guidance regarding the impact of COVID-19 on minorities, emergency measures, civic space, and women and racial discrimination, among other topics.
The Human Rights Council, at its forty-third session, held an “urgent debate on current racially inspired human rights violations, systemic racism, police brutality against people of African descent and violence against peaceful protests”. Anti-racism protests in many countries, triggered by the killing of George Floyd in May 2020 in Atlanta, Georgia, in the United States of America, were a sign of global outrage against racism, inequality and discrimination.
During the reporting period, the High Commissioner highlighted the glaringly disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on racial and ethnic minorities, including people of African descent, and the way in which the pandemic has exposed alarming inequalities within societies.