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United Nations

Australian Statement for the Third Committee General Debate, 5 October 2020

UNGA Third Committee - General Debate - Statement delivered on 5 October 2020

Thank you Chair.

COVID-19 is challenging the international system and all of our countries in unprecedented ways.

This pandemic reminds us that human rights are fundamental and central to all aspects of national and international governance. Human rights are not peripheral to the COVID response; indeed, they must be central to our debates and our decision-making.

As the world continues to respond to this economic and social crisis, Australia firmly believes that nations that uphold principles domestically are more likely to cooperate in ways that promote the common good, respecting human rights and freedoms, and building them into the fabric of society, making the world – safer and more secure.

We are particularly concerned about the significant and disproportionate impacts of COVID-19 on people who experience discrimination and inequalities, especially indigenous peoples; women and girls; people with disabilities; older persons; and LGBTI persons.

The Australian Government has worked in partnership with Indigenous Australians to protect Indigenous communities from the impacts of COVID-19. We urge all States to do the same where segments of the community are particularly at risk.

People with disabilities and their carers may experience barriers that make it difficult to keep themselves safe from COVID-19. Australia urges all States to support disability-inclusive responses and recovery efforts.

Women and girls’ human rights have also been adversely affected, reversing hard won gains. COVID-19 has escalated gender-based violence, impacted the education of women and girls, heightened economic insecurity, increased womens and girls’ unpaid labour and reduced access to essential services, including sexual and reproductive health services. This will have profound, long lasting, adverse effects on women and girls’ health and their lives.

Australia will continue to advocate for gender equality and the rights of women and girls, including in discussions on economic empowerment, education, gender-based violence and leadership at all levels, as well as through national statements and strong support for resolutions. Australia is proud to be a Vice Chair of the Bureau of the Commission on the Status of Women.

While Australia’s first term on the Human Rights Council is ending, our work for the promotion and protection of human rights, both at home and abroad, is ongoing. At the highest levels, we have underscored our long-standing commitment to human rights principles and our commitment to the international rules-based order.

Australia continues to work to ensure international institutions are fit-for-purpose, effective, transparent and most importantly, accountable to member states.

Australia is concerned by emerging practices that undermine long-established human rights and work against the norms and values that underpin the global order.

As we try to control the spread of COVID-19, we also need to shine a spotlight on the dangers of disinformation. Disinformation costs lives, creates a climate of fear and division and is counter to Australia’s values and beliefs as a free, open society.

Australia is deeply disturbed by politically motivated arbitrary arrest, detention and sentencing of foreign nationals. The right not to be subjected to arbitrary arrest or detention is guaranteed in international law. We oppose arbitrary detention and condemn its continued use.

The COVID-19 pandemic should not be used as a pretext for reducing or removing access to justice and consular assistance for people in detention.

Australia is proud to have been one of the eight nations to draft the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and an original signatory. The indivisibility, universality and inalienability of human rights are principles that Australia has consistently championed.

We look forward to working with all UN member states during UNGA75 to further the promotion and protection of human rights.

ENDS - 589 words

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