In the framework of the United Nations Inter-Agency Network on Youth Development (UN IANYD), Génération Maastricht is committed to goals enshrined in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the World Programme of Action for Youth and the UN Youth Strategy. In our goal to make all human rights respected, including economic, social and cultural rights as well as civil and political rights, is fundamental to the success of public health responses and recovery from the pandemic.
As communities around the world face a rapid global outbreak of COVID-19, the United Nations Major Group for Children and Youth calls for strengthened multilateralism and a renewed commitment to democratic values, human rights and health equity.
Countries must work together to tackle the stigma, fear and misinformation that can lead to harmful and unethical actions. While we must be cautious of misinformation, we must be even more vigilant that affected entities remain transparent, sharing the information they have completely, honestly, and timely.
Gag-orders, attacks on whistleblowers, and the withholding of information from those working together to protect human lives and livelihoods must be considered a direct attack on those lives and livelihoods, just as the virus itself is. Global health security efforts should seek to protect human life, not put lives at greater risk by restricting global understanding of the disease.
Access to quality, affordable and equitable healthcare is the only way to ensure that all members of a society are safe from a virus for which there is not yet herd immunity.
COVID-19 can be contracted from and by the rich and the poor indiscriminately but the poor are more likely to go untreated, which poses a critical public health risk to the entire community. Societies must come together to ensure that all people – regardless of their wealth or privilege, as well as gender, sexuality, age, nationality, migratory or any other status – are able to get tested and treated for this disease.
The economic impacts of the outbreak are already being felt around the world, and the poor are being hurt disproportionately. To prepare for times of crises, nations must look to redistribute wealth to ensure all peoples have adequate safety nets, and no one gets left behind.
While many individuals will try to avoid exposure to the disease by staying inside or working from home, low-wage workers, those in the service industry, and struggling families are often unable to take these preventive measures due to the lack of a safety net of sick days or savings. Social distancing and isolation measures are effective methods of preventing the spread of the disease, but the economic and human impacts of these strategies must be recognised and mitigated as best as possible, particularly for low-income individuals and families, and those who are most vulnerable.
Similarly, undocumented migrants who fear legal retaliation or deportation are unlikely to report their symptoms or seek testing and treatment, posing an increased health risk to all. These individuals should not be stigmatised, but provided with safe access to necessary medical attention. We must provide access to healthcare for all, regardless of their immigration status and free from any form of reprisal, in order to protect our communities and recognize the right to health for all.
As COVID-19 spreads around the world, putting pressure on strong and weak health systems alike, we recognise the need to balance the UN’s critical work with these public health concerns. In light of this, we support the decision to cancel, postpone and scale down key intergovernmental meetings due to take place in the coming weeks. Nevertheless, this must not stall global progress or undo the good we have achieved together. We urge countries to stay on track with commitments made and to demonstrate global solidarity in the face of this crisis.
In the face of this challenge, we must now find alternative and innovative ways to move agendas forward, exchange ideas, and hold each other to account. As a constituency, we commit to working within the revised timeline of events and encourage all parties to seek out new ways to facilitate and amplify the voice of civil society actors, including children and young people, and support those working on the frontlines of this outbreak.
COVID-19 attacks the respiratory system, but it must not take our voice away. International solidarity and strong international cooperation is essential to protect the lives of all people, in every community and every country, and uphold their rights. Ultimately, this is not only a threat to global health security but also a threat to democracy and our humanity. We must take action now to ensure that no-one is left behind.