Promoting Inclusive and Rights-focused Responses to COVID-19 in the Americas: Until Inclusion Becomes Customary!

By: Betilde Muñoz-Pogossian, Director * and Pamela Molina, Consultant *, Department of Social Inclusion, Organization of American States (OAS)

The pandemic caused by COVID-19 is directly and indirectly affecting millions of people in the region. National governments have been agile and pragmatic in the responses, choosing different measures to contain the contagion and mitigate its effects. These measures range from avoiding the shortage of basic goods, the provision of special lines of credit to companies to ensure payment of wages, the freezing of payments for basic services, and prohibition of suspension of these services for non-payment, increased spending social, expanding direct monetary transfers to households without wages or to families in poverty, as well as the delivery of food packages to families and students who depended on schools for adequate food. It also includes the measure with the highest impact on the usual form of social coexistence: household quarantines and social distancing. Even so, the pandemic is generating, in addition to the regrettable human losses, an enormous impact on the social fabric and, by not adopting measures that are inclusive of the most historically vulnerable people, will generate even more inequality and social exclusion than we already had as a region.

Precisely to help States respond to the pandemic by prioritizing attention to the needs of marginalized populations, the Organization of American States (OAS) launched the Practical Guide of Inclusive Responses to COVID-19 with Rights Perspective in the Americas, with the understanding that in a hemisphere already marked by inequality, the effects of this pandemic on the right to health and on all human rights, will have a greater and differentiated impact on people in vulnerable situations. When speaking of people or groups in a vulnerable situation, we speak of the group of people who, due to race, color, lineage or national or ethnic origin, cultural identity, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, migratory condition of being a refugee, repatriated, stateless or internally displaced, disability, genetic characteristics, bio-psycho-social conditions or any other, have been historically discriminated against and the recognition, enjoyment or exercise of their rights denied or violated. Thus, women, the elderly, people with disabilities, people of African descent, indigenous peoples, LGBTIQ people, internally displaced persons, migrants, asylum seekers and refugees, deprived of liberty, as well as childhood and adolescence, and all people in poverty and extreme poverty, need to be prioritized in political responses, which must be tailored to the specific challenges they face in the midst of a pandemic like the one we are facing.

The Guide dedicates a section to each population, mapping particular challenges and recommendations, but it does not leave out a key concept when thinking about the answers, namely: intersectionality. The Guide proposes that this concept is essential to understand the challenges people face in the face of the pandemic, and to develop responses that are truly effective. In other words, in the analysis of the pandemic and its effects, and in the political responses, it is vital to take into account the complex and irreducible effects that result when multiple axes of inequality and stigmatization of differences – economic, political, cultural, bio- psycho-social, racial, gender, ethnicity, identities and experiences— intersect in specific historical contexts, producing unique and indivisible effects.

With this tool, the OAS hopes to be able to influence even better public policy responses to the pandemic, so that, as Secretary General Luis Almagro has pointed out, we will not get out of this crisis “nor less democratic, nor the citizens with less rights.” On the contrary, we offer this Practical Guide from the conviction that this emergency we are experiencing can be a new opportunity for solidarity, to strengthen the spirit of cooperation that has always characterized us as a region, and to reinforce the responsibility that governments have, to bring more rights to more people in the Americas.

* Opinions are personal. They do not represent the opinion of the Organization of American States.

Download the Guide > (in Spanish)

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