Ombudswoman Tena Šimonović Einwalter submitted a special report to the Croatian Parliament entitled “The Impact of the COVID-19 Epidemic on Human Rights and Equality – Recommendations for the Strengthening of Resilience to Future Crises.” The Report analyses the impact of the epidemic during the course of 2020 and 2021 and provides 72 recommendations with the aim of encouraging and directing the process of the strengthening of Croatia’s resilience to crises.
“This epidemic is an unprecedented event in recent history and has led to numerous human rights restrictions. From the very beginning, our institution has been active, working on cases and doing preventive work aimed at achieving systemic improvements, especially when it came to the most vulnerable groups. However, after two years, the time has come to look back and make a broader analysis of the impact on human rights and equality, which should and can guide the reactions in similar situations in the future, should they occur“, said Ombudswoman Šimonović Einwalter.
The epidemic has shown that, in addition to the consistency in the implementation of the measures, it is extremely important to inform the citizens about those measures and the coronavirus itself. This should include providing detailed explanations of the reasons and the criteria for their adoption in a timely manner, so that the citizens and those who are responsible for enforcing the measures could prepare. The Report especially emphasizes the importance of building trust in institutions, which needs to be done systematically, before a crisis strikes, as well as of the nurturing of social solidarity. Special value of the Report lies in its recommendations divided into those specifically related to the epidemic, and those that are general and, thus, applicable in the future crises. The Report also contains recommendations issued by special ombudswomen in relation to the groups and topics in their field of work.
The Report covers the two-year period between March 2020 (the beginning of the epidemic) and the end of December 2021, and was prepared in collaboration with the Gender Equality Ombudswoman, the Ombudswoman for Children and the Ombudswoman for the Persons with Disabilities. It refers to the impact on specific human rights and equality as well as on specific social groups, and includes, inter alia, issues of unequal access to health care, difficulties related to the organization and implementation of vaccination, the impact of epidemiological measures on employment rights, restrictions on public gatherings and the freedom of movement. It also refers to the impact of the epidemic on older persons, youth, persons living in poverty, Roma, migrants, persons deprived of their liberty, women, children, persons with disabilities and children with disabilities.
Crises such as the COVID-19 epidemic are unpredictable and that is exactly why lessons should be learned from them, which can be done most effectively when the crisis stagnates or ends and the conditions for an objective, systematic and analytical review are achieved. The Report and its recommendations also aim to encourage detailed scientific and expert analyses of the impact of the epidemic on different areas and systems, as well as social groups, as a contribution to learning for the future. Only in this way is it possible to strengthen resilience to future crises and the possible continuation of this epidemic, and thus strengthen the protection of human rights, freedoms and equality in demanding conditions.
Source: Office of the Ombudsman, Croatia