Coronavirus Outbreak, Human Rights, Peace

Yazar / Referans: 
Kıvılcım Turanlı, Bianet

According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) reports, the amount of money only spent for armament and war across the world is as vast as 2 trillion dollars and it keeps increasing.

In his article published on bianet on March 26, 2020, Osman İşçi defines the coronavirus outbreak as a matter of human rights and points out what human rights defenders can do in this process.

Associating the coronavirus outbreak with the right to health, İşçi says, "It is directly related with the fact that the right to health must be truly enforced and it must be accessible for all in addition to being free of charge and of good quality." Based on this article that approaches the outbreak from a rights-oriented point of view, I need to make an addition: Coronavirus outbreak is a matter of human rights and all matters of human rights are closely associated with peace and the right to peace.

In fact, on the international platform, this association was formed by United Nations (UN) Secretary General António Guterres. Bringing attention to the dimensions of the outbreak and the right to health, he made a call for a ceasefire in conflict regions on March 23. Guterres reminded that people were living in cramped refugee camps in several countries of the world and they were not in a position to access hospital beds, ventilators or even water and soap. He also noted that the association between war and public health, once again, manifested the world's need for peace.

In referring to peace, Guterres was - without a doubt - talking about an absence of war or conflicts. In fact, peace is much more than a mere absence of war or conflicts. Putting this narrow definition aside, peace refers to a broad framework, extending from meeting the humanitarian needs of people to establishing social justice, from enforcing human rights to eliminating the conditions which (can) lead to violations of rights.

However, it is not possible to express the demand for peace without challenging or, at least, questioning the current world policies, the state, international system, capitalism, militarism, discrimination, violence and the budget allocated to war. It is actually for that very reason that the ones demanding peace are accused, defamed and marginalized.

When we consider whose freedom of expression has been inhibited, who have been threatened or attempted to be defamed since the outbreak of the coronavirus epidemic, the holism of human rights and the dialectic relations among the rights clearly manifest themselves.

As a matter of fact, the coronavirus outbreak does not only show the importance of accessible health services, but it also reminds us over and over again of the necessity of an accessible education that is not racist, discriminatory or sexist; the vital importance of paid leave, social security system and job security; the relation between health conditions in closed institutions and public health; and the vulnerability of refugees and other disadvantaged groups.

But who the outbreak brings to our minds first are probably the ones who do not have life safety... A direct consequence of not being able to leave home is a gradual increase in violence against women and girls, but, on the other side, a further invisibilization of this violence as well. Not only has coronavirus outbreak revealed the problems of health, education and employment policies, but it has also made the racism, discrimination, sexism and speciesism within us undeniable. Racist and discriminatory language targeting Far Easterners as coronavirus has been attributed to China, treatment of the elderly on the streets, sexist and speciesist jokes through eating habits, as if eating had nothing to do with culture...

Seen in this light, it can be said that peace is also about the distance between the available and the possible and peace can only be established by narrowing this distance. On the other side, the wider the distance between the available and the possible gets, the more all human rights can be threatened or violated, the easier it gets to drift apart from the law and moments of crisis, say, an outbreak, show us - in its most concrete manifestation - how much this distance has increased, even when peace is considered to be a mere absence of war...

Indeed, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) reports, the amount of money only spent for armament and war across the world is as vast as 2 trillion dollars and it keeps increasing. The figures show that not only underdeveloped countries, but the developed ones as well, allocate a considerable part of their budgets to armament.

According to the previous studies of the SIPRI, even a small amount of the money allocated to armament can solve the world's problems of nutrition, housing, healthcare and education within a decade. When we return to the distance between the available and the possible, in the current situation, if even staying home by closing our eyes and ears to the rights violations manifesting the reality, the reports documenting them and the warnings made about it does not suffice to make us feel safe, then it means it is time for us to think about the outbreak with its all causes and effects within the frame of right to peace. (KT/EMK/SD)

 Photo: AA / Dakar, the capital of Senegal (Archive)