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How To Talk About Human Rights During Covid-19

Human rights are tools we can use to steer governments towards making decisions that put the health and wellbeing of everyone at the forefront. However, many governments and media outlets frame human rights as an obstacle to public health. We often reinforce this damaging narrative unintentionally.

This guide offers suggestions on how to frame human rights when speaking about measures that authorities are taking (or failing to take) to halt the spread and minimise the impact of coronavirus.

It is intended for anyone working in the human rights sector who wants people to appreciate the importance and usefulness of their rights in creating the lives they want to live and the communities they want to live in.

"In a moment in which advocates around the world are grappling with how to make sense of and respond effectively to this crisis, this messaging guide invites us to think more holistically about what it is we're saying, where we risk getting in our own way by reinforcing notions at odds with what we seek to convey, and what to say instead. It offers us a way to contest the false binary between rights and health that we see right-wing governments employing to curtail liberties, entrench their power, and inflict harms on the most vulnerable. And, more importantly, it offers us a route to go beyond defense to frame our demands and desires within the broadest possible notion of human needs and well-being. "

Anat Shenker-Osorio, Host of Brave New Words

"This paper goes a long way to filling a large gap in human rights discourse: our inability to convincingly talk about the right to health in an inspiring emotional way that connects to a unique way of thinking about human rights and shared humanity."

Thomas Coombes, Hope-Based Communications

"This guide is essential reading, not just within the human rights sector but for all progressives communicating during the pandemic. It delivers its central mission - to counter the false dichotomy between public health and human rights - with well considered analysis and practical dos and don’ts."

Bec Sanderson, Public Interest Research Centre


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