Antonio Guterres spaeks during an event. File
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Friday the coronavirus pandemic keeps unleashing "a tsunami of hate and xenophobia, scapegoating and scare-mongering” and appealed for "an all-out effort to end hate speech globally."
The UN chief said "anti-foreigner sentiment has surged online and in the streets, anti-Semitic conspiracy theories have spread, and COVID-19-related anti-Muslim attacks have occurred.”
Guterres said migrants and refugees "have been vilified as a source of the virus - and then denied access to medical treatment.”
"With older persons among the most vulnerable, contemptible memes have emerged suggesting they are also the most expendable,” he said.
"And journalists, whistleblowers, health professionals, aid workers and human rights defenders are being targeted simply for doing their jobs.”
Guterres called on political leaders to show solidarity with all people, on educational institutions to focus on "digital literacy” at a time when "extremists are seeking to prey on captive and potentially despairing audiences.”
He called on the media, especially social media, to "remove racist, misogynist and other harmful content,” on civil society to strengthen their outreach to vulnerable people, and on religious figures to serve as "models of mutual respect.”
"And I ask everyone, everywhere, to stand up against hate, treat each other with dignity and take every opportunity to spread kindness,” Guterres said.
The secretary-general stressed that COVID-19 "does not care who we are, where we live, what we believe or about any other distinction.”
His global appeal to address and counter COVID-19-related hate speech follows his April 23 message calling the coronarivus pandemic "a human crisis that is fast becoming a human rights crisis.”
Guterres said then that the pandemic has seen "disproportionate effects on certain communities, the rise of hate speech, the targeting of vulnerable groups, and the risks of heavy-handed security responses undermining the health response.”
With "rising ethno-nationalism, populism, authoritarianism and a push back against human rights in some countries, the crisis can provide a pretext to adopt repressive measures for purposes unrelated to the pandemic,” he warned.
In February, Guterres issued a call to action to countries, businesses and people to help renew and revive human rights across the globe, laying out a seven-point plan amid concerns about climate change, conflict and repression.
The COVID-19 pandemic has created the largest disruption to education in history and prolonged school closures could further entrench inequalities in access to learning.
Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the pandemic is revealing the extent to which people are marginalized and is intensifying the inequalities that people with disabilities already face, such as poverty and higher rates of violence, neglect and abuse.
The UN said "a long-term upsurge in the number and severity of mental health problems is likely” and warned that if action isn’t taken COVID-19 "has the seeds of a major mental health crisis” as well as "a physical health crisis.”
Antonio Guterres said in a video message Wednesday launching a policy briefing on "The Impact of COVID-19 in Africa” that countries on the continent have responded swiftly to the crisis, "and as of now reported cases are lower than feared,” with more than 2,500 deaths.
The Coromandel Express, which runs from Kolkata to Chennai, derailed and fell on the opposite track, with many people still trapped, the reports said.
Sheikh Mohammed added in a tweet on Twitter: "We found its executive director at the service counters, receiving customers, speeding up procedures, and contributing to clearing transactions. The secret shopper assured us that providing the service did not exceed five minutes."
The first lady arrived in Cairo from Amman, where she attended the wedding of Crown Prince Hussein. She is travelling to Morocco on Saturday before heading to Portugal, the final stop of her tour, on Monday.