Many of us use phrases like ‘law and ethics’ and ‘law, ethics and rights’. They trip off the tongue; they seem both useful and ordinary or unexceptional. But is there cause for concern as regards their impact on ethics, law in general and human rights law in particular?
Two-way engagement and cooperation with local communities with a human rights based approach are essential tools in the response to outbreaks and transmission prevention in transnational health emergencies. The response to the 2013-2015 EVD outbreak in West Africa highlighted the importance of preparedness for communication and strong engagement with local communities when designing and implementing containment measures.
Intersectional discrimination against people on the move underpins inadequate responses to COVID-19. The right to enjoy the benefits of scientific progress and its applications clearly demands substantive racial equality when designing economic and public health measures to address the pandemic.
Research in genetics and medicine must seek to offer relief from suffering and improve the health of individuals and humankind as a whole. The COVID-19 pandemic is a severe test at the local, national and international level in terms of the interaction between genetics science, social preparedness and human rights, in particular the rights to health and non-discrimination.
COVID-19 has shown that strengthening innovation and production capacities in the pharmaceutical and medical supply and device industries is essential to pandemic preparedness. In Latin America, universities are playing a key role when facing this ongoing challenge in a context of regional economic hardship.
Science and human rights are intrinsically connected yet this link has not been fully integrated into COVID-19 responses. Translating normative consensus into practice will require targeted advocacy, appropriate operational guidance and strengthened UN coordination, notably in implementing science-related SDGs.