If the world needed a reminder of the crucial importance of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the COVID-19 pandemic we are currently experiencing is a perfect example. The coronavirus knows no national, racial, religious, national or political boundaries. We are exposed to it simply because of our humanity, and we will defeat this virus because each of us instinctively knows that we must work together by building on the strengths that our respect for human rights gives us.
By Ambassador Par Mike Hammer
We have witnessed significant progress in the DRC since President Tshisekedi took office and we appreciate that he ensures that the security forces exercise restraint and avoid unnecessary use of force during the war. current state of emergency. We also congratulate him and the first lady Denise Nyakeru for their commitment to end domestic and sexual violence, especially during this period when women are particularly vulnerable. I was a visual witness to this commitment when the first lady launched the “generation equality” caravan during International Women’s Day in Mbuji-Mayi this year.
Take freedom of expression. As individuals, we are powerless against this virus, so we warn each other using all the means of communication we have. This is why our embassy has produced two videos to encourage hand washing and the wearing of masks and this is the reason why we support other media campaigns to inform the public of the best means of personal or personal protection. respect of others against COVID-19. We congratulate the many members of Parliament, NGOs and lambda citizens who also share vital information on the disease and its spread, and sound the alarm if something (or someone) poses a threat to our communities. Social media can be a powerful ally against difficult challenges, but we must always guard against misinformation.
Or take the freedom of religion or belief. One can seek spiritual advice and protection against the pandemic, individually or within the community, with appropriate precautions.
Then there is the right to peaceful assembly and free association – respecting of course, in today’s world, social distancing as it should be. We work with others to ensure the support and safety of our first responders and essential workers mobilized, including through online advocacy. Congolese health professionals are the real heroes, we saw this in the fight against the Ebola virus and we still see it when it comes to the coronavirus.
And, because our lives depend on it, we expect our political leaders to tell us the truth about the challenges ahead and to accept criticism and responsibility with humility, grace and compassion. It is a question of political and moral accountability. When our leaders and our media disseminate credible and timely information about the risks and benefits, citizens can make informed choices about how to protect themselves, their families and their neighbors. We congratulate President Tshisekedi, Professor JJ Muyembe, Minister of Health, Eteni Longondo, and the Presidential Working Group for their transparency. Transparency facilitates international cooperation and has been essential in the fight against the epidemic of ‘Ebola in eastern DRC and limiting its spread.
Without these freedoms and the responsibility that accompanies them, it is impossible to develop the drugs that will make it possible to defeat this virus, or to formulate the political and financial strategies necessary to restore our economies. It is the responsibility of the government to protect both.
Senior officials who choose to protect their power and pride rather than the health and well-being of their people endanger the health and future of their own people. We know that a bright future is possible after the pandemic if – and only if – governments listen and serve the public in this time of adversity.
Authoritarian systems, on the other hand, reveal their weaknesses in times of crisis. Governments that imprison or oppress those who would like to warn us that there is a serious problem take refuge in the grossest form of denial. Governments that ban or seek to limit the publication of vital information, or to limit scientific, social or political collaboration, threaten not only the lives of their own people, but also of people in other countries. And the governments that are using this pandemic to crush religious expression seen as a threat to their control are suppressing both the instincts of their people and a deep source of personal strength and social solidarity.
It is contrary to the very concept of human rights to suppress the provision of crucial public health information. “Public safety” requires freedom and political responsibility. Without this responsibility, our communities are exposed to an unacceptable risk. Sharing information quickly, as the Congolese authorities do, is what responsible governments do. Failure to do so can be fatal.
History has shown that the results of leaders who are truly transparent, accountable and sensitive to the criticism of their citizens are directly related to the security and prosperity of the families and communities they serve.
Democracies such as Taiwan, South Korea, Germany and the United States have shown openness and honesty with regard to the alarming figures, but also to the aggressive tactics they use to fight the virus . Frontline democracies like Taiwan and South Korea were among the first to notice infections outside of Wuhan and quickly succeeded in preventing the uncontrolled spread of the virus without resorting to oppression and fear.
As Americans, we are proud that our public and private sectors – as part of a whole-of-America approach – have already mobilized resources to help fight COVID-19. Since the start of the epidemic, the United States government has committed $ 775 million in aid to date and American businesses, NGOs, faith-based organizations and individuals have contributed at least $ 3 billion donations and help to fight the virus.
In the DRC, the United States is working hand in hand with President Tshisekedi’s administration to support a healthy Congolese population, one of the four key pillars of the Privileged Partnership for Peace and Prosperity (PP4PP). To date, we have announced assistance of $ 17.4 million to combat COVID-19 in the DRC. This funding will help partner agencies provide vital assistance, including infection prevention and control activities in health facilities, strengthen disease surveillance and train health personnel, and support efforts to community engagement to educate the public through radio programs, newsletters and public debates.
The African proverb that “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together, “says deep wisdom. The American people can tell you that you are not alone in this crisis. Our communities face the same suffering and challenges as you do. In times of crisis, we count on our friends and that is why the United States is committed to working more with the DRC to overcome this virus. We do this because the American people are generous and it is in our common interest to fight our common enemies, including pandemics. We have helped the DRC in the past to fight Ebola, cholera, measles, malaria and HIV, and we are now joining forces against the coronavirus. The Americans are on your side – on an equal footing – in this crisis. There is no other way. We will overcome this crisis by reaffirming what makes us human and free: honest and transparent communication, creative collaboration and real responsibility towards our loved ones and our communities.