Richer countries are failing a “rudimentary” test of global solidarity by hoarding Covid vaccines, Amnesty International said on Wednesday when it accused China and others of using the pandemic to undermine human rights.
In its annual report, the campaign rights organization said that the health crisis had revealed “broken” policies and that cooperation was the only way forward.
“The pandemic has shed a strong light on the world’s inability to cooperate effectively and fairly,” said Agnes Callamard, who was appointed Amnesty’s secretary general last month.
“The richest countries have implemented an almost monopoly on the world’s supply of vaccines, which means that countries have the least resources to meet the worst health and human rights.”
Amnesty strongly criticized the decision of former US President Donald Trump to withdraw Washington from the World Health Organization (WHO) in the midst of the pandemic – a step that is now being reversed by Trump’s successor Joe Biden.
Callamard called for an immediate acceleration of the global spread of vaccines, calling the virginity campaign “a very basic, even rudimentary, test of the world’s ability to work together.”
Since the outbreak of the coronavirus in China at the end of 2019, the pandemic has claimed more than 2.8 million lives globally and infected at least 130 million people.
Despite regular demands for global solidarity from international organizations, figures show increased inequality in the availability of vaccines.
According to an AFP count, more than half of the 680 million plus doses administered worldwide have been in high-income countries, such as the United States, the United Kingdom and Israel, while the poorest have received only 0.1 percent of the doses.
At the end of March, the WHO warned of an increasingly unbalanced distribution of vaccines.
Amnesty International has supported initiatives such as the WHO’s vaccine exchange platform C-TAP to share knowledge, intellectual property and data.
According to the WHO, the underutilized initiative can be used to build production capacity and additional vaccine production facilities, especially in Africa, Asia and Latin America.
Amnesty was dismissed as “shameful half-measures” by those taken by the G20 group of nations to suspend the repayment of 77 countries.
Amnesty also cracked down on China’s “gross irresponsibility” during the pandemic, accusing Beijing of censoring health workers and journalists who tried to sound the alarm at the outbreak.
“Covid-19 intensified its strong opposition to freedom of expression with a number of citizen journalists reporting on the outbreak and in some cases being detained,” it said.
The rights group pointed to growing evidence of “more serious human rights violations” to a greater extent in China, “including torture and forced disappearances” of Uighurs and other Muslim minorities in the Xinjiang region.
It said nations such as Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Hungary had used the pandemic to further silence criticism and cited violence by security services in Brazil and Nigeria over protest movements over the past year.
“Some (leaders) have tried to normalize the remarkable emergency measures they have taken to combat Covid-19, while a particularly virulent tribe of leaders has gone a step further,” Callamard said.
“They have seen this as an opportunity to anchor their own power. Instead of supporting and protecting people, they have simply armed the pandemic to wipe out human rights,” she added.
Amnesty said that during the state of health, groups such as women and migrants had been further marginalized in parts of the world.
It said its report outlined how “existing inequalities as a result of decades of toxic leadership have left ethnic minorities, refugees, the elderly and women disproportionately affected”.
“We are facing a world in disarray. At this point in the pandemic, even the most misleading leaders would struggle to deny that our social, economic and political systems are broken,” Callamard said.