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.
There has been normative clarification of the right to enjoy the benefits of scientific progress and its applications. However certain aspects of the right remain poorly defined and present challenges, notably in relation to the corporate, profit-driven orientation of contemporary scientific innovation.
The Kenyan government’s recent evictions in Kariobangi, Nairobi, contravened a court order and the constitution, as well as breaching international human rights law and causing additional hardship to poverty-stricken citizens already adversely impacted by COVID-19.
The authoritative interpretation of the right to science coincided with the global descent into a pandemic. From the social fissures and injustices laid bare by the pandemic arises an opportunity to use the right to science to respond and rebuild.
Emergencies pose particular challenges to ethical research – yet research is essential for effective emergency response. Complementing human rights approaches, an ‘ethical compass’ of core values provides a basis to allocate responsibilities to a wide range of non-state duty-bearers.