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“Human Rights in the Arab Region in Light of the Coronavirus Pandemic”... The Fourth Annual Report Released by Maat for Peace

OKeil: The Covid-19 pandemic has obstructed the implementation of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and exacerbated the human rights situation

Sherif Abdel Hamid: The tragedy and suffering of citizens in Arab countries continues amidst threats of the Covid-19 pandemic and escalating armed conflicts

Maat for Peace, Development, and Human Rights released this morning, March 31st, its fourth annual report on the situation of human rights in the Arab region entitled"Human Rights in the Arab World Amidst Covid-19 Pandemic". The report monitors and analyzes the developments and realities of the human rights situation in the Arab region during 2020 while focusing on the escalating suffering of the Arab societies under the current global health crisis imposed by the widespread of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The four-part report addressed the attitudes of the Arab countries towards the international mechanisms, the extent of cooperation and communication with these mechanisms in light of the Covid-19, the restrictions imposed by the Coronavirus pandemic on achieving the SDGs, as well as the human rights situation in conflict areas and occupied territories. In its final part, the report also touched upon terrorism and its impact on human rights in light of the spread of the Covid-19.

The report referred to a number of points, topped by the fact that the emerging Coronavirus has not only threaten public health but also personal rights and freedoms that were maintained even in the most powerful democracies. Besides, several countries have used it as an excuse to impose further restrictions and limitations on peoples' rights. Many of the basic rights guaranteed by laws have been violated and the things that once taken for granted have become questionable. For example, the freedom of movement has been restricted, lockdown measures and movement bans have become prevalent even without justification, borders have been closed, and electronic applications to track and detect the infected have become mandatory, heedless of the danger of breaching people's privacy, and the right to a good education has become questionable after the prevalence of the distance learning and the gap it has created between the rich and the poor.

The report stressed the major challenges that faced the Arab region in 2020, topped by the Covid-19 pandemic, which repercussions have been widely and intensely felt by peoples across the Arab world. The SDGs were deeply affected by these challenges. As a consequence of the Covid-19 pandemic, an additional 16 million people in the Arab region have fallen into poverty. Besides, the debilitating economic conditions have also forced poverty-stricken families to make desperate choices. Parents have been forced to commodity their children by taking them out of school and forcing them to labor. Over 1.2 billion students globally have reportedly been deprived of education, whether due to school closures or the challenges of distance education. Hence, the report warned against a looming humanitarian crisis with regard to education, especially in conflict areas.

The report added that the negative impact caused by the global health crisis and the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic had affected all aspects of life, especially the sustainable development agenda. However, the most vulnerable to these consequences and the worst affected by them are the Arab countries, especially the conflict areas, that were not even slightly prepared to respond to such global changes due to the deterioration of their internal conditions, which significantly affected their response capacity and the protection of their citizens from potential threats.

The report affirmed that the outbreak of the Coronavirus pandemic has not prevented terrorist groups and extremist organizations from continuing their hostilities and terrorist operations in the Arab region. After these operations have decreased relatively in the first half of 2020, which is quite understandable given the state of panic sparked by the outbreak of the Covid-19, they re-escalated in the second half of the year, especially in Somalia, Iraq, and Yemen. Terrorist groups present in the previous three countries have intensified their terrorist attacks on civilians, government and military institutions, and foreign actors, especially in the case of Yemen, in an attempt to exploit the Arab governments' preoccupation with the pandemic and to distract the attention of the security services in these countries, dividing it between confronting terrorism and addressing the public health crisis.

Ayman Okeil, president of Maat, stated the uncurbed outbreak of the Covid-19, especially in the Arab region, has exacerbated the already fragile human rights situation, including economic, social, and humanitarian rights. The pandemic has also obstructed the implementation of the SDGs and exposed the structural imbalances and the lack of efficiency in the public institutions and facilities, especially in the health sector in many Arab countries. Besides, it exposed the lack of social justice and equal opportunities for all citizens, as well as the weakness and fragility of the social and economic safety cover provided by the state to its citizens. Adding to the above, the pandemic has doubled the pressures and risks on the most vulnerable groups in Arab societies, including women, minorities, migrant workers, refugees, and internally displaced people.

For his part, Sherif Abdel Hamid, Director of the Research and Studies Unit at Maat, confirmed that the spread of the Coronavirus has intensified the tragedy and suffering of citizens in the Arab region, especially in war-afflicted areas such as in Syria, Yemen, and Libya, where conflicts and wars have led to the collapse of the health system, making it difficult for those countries to cope with the outbreak of the virus.

To view the full report, open the following link:

The State of Human Rights in the Arab Region in Light of the Coronavirus Pandemic

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