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COVID-19 and Social Rights: Statement by the European Committee of Social Rights

Strasbourg, France 22/04/2021
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COVID-19 and Social Rights: Statement by the European Committee of Social Rights

In a statement issued today on COVID-19 and social rights, the European Committee of Social Rights aims to highlight those rights of the European Social Charter that are particularly affected by the COVID-19 crisis such as employment and labour rights, the right to social security, social and medical assistance, the right to be protected against poverty and social exclusion, the right to housing and education. The statement also addresses the rights of children and families, women, older persons and persons with disabilities.

In designing and implementing additional measures in response to the challenges presented by the COVID-19, States Parties must take due account of all social rights-holders, according special attention and appropriate priority to the most socially vulnerable groups and individuals. States Parties must ensure that measures taken in response to the crisis, including economic and social policy measures, do not result in discrimination in terms of social rights enjoyment, whether direct or indirect (as provided by Article E of the Charter).

The European Committee of Social Rights takes the view that investment in social rights and in their delivery – consistent with the use of maximum available resources – will mitigate the adverse impact of the crisis and accelerate the post-pandemic social and economic recovery. The obligations set out by the Charter must serve as a human rights roadmap for the difficult decisions on law, policy and resource allocation that will have to be taken in the coming years.

The success of the efforts to overcome the current crisis depends decisively on the involvement of social partners and civil society in the planning, implementation and evaluation of these efforts to ensure legitimacy and impact.

Karin Lukas, President of the European Committee of Social Rights, in a comment explained that “the statement aims to provide guidance to States Parties, organisations of workers and employers, civil society and other key stakeholders by clarifying certain aspects of the Charter rights in question as they apply in the current crisis.” She further stressed that “crises, whatever their cause, should not have as a consequence the reduction of protection or enjoyment of the rights recognized by the Charter. On the contrary, governments are bound to take all necessary steps to ensure that social rights are effectively guaranteed at a period of time when their citizens need the protection most.”