Sur - International Journal on Human Rights
Human rights in the midst of the pandemic: impacts and answers
Collaborate in this edition:
Eliana Sousa Silva11. Eliana Sousa Silva is the founder and director of the Redes da Maré NGO and the curator and organizer of the Women of the World Festival – WOW Rio. She received an Honorary Doctorate from Queen Mary University of London and holds a PhD in Social Services from the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro (PUC/Rio). She has worked at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ) for over 30 years. In 2007, together with other local leaders, Silva founded Redes da Maré, an NGO that runs 19 projects in different areas ranging from education, culture, professional training and women’s empowerment to human rights and public security, territorial development and collective memory. Throughout her career, Silva has received several awards, such as Itaú Cultural 30 years award (2018), Women of the Year – social area from the Rio de Janeiro Rotary Club (2005), the Mulher Claudia award in the area of social work from Editora Abril (2004) and the Ashoka Social Entrepreneur Award (2000).
Usha Ramanathan22. Usha Ramanathan is an Indian human right activist and an internationally recognized expert on law and poverty. She studied law at Madras University, the University of Nagpur and Delhi University. She is a research fellow at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, in India. Dr Ramanathan teaches environmental law, labour law and consumer law at the Indian Law Institute. She is a regular guest professor at many universities around the world, a member of Amnesty International’s Advisory Panel on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and also the South Asia Editor of the Law, Environment and Development Journal (LEAD Journal), a peer-reviewed academic journal jointly published by the School of Law of the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London, and the International Environmental Law Research Centre (IELRC).
Luis Gilberto Murillo Urrutia33. Luis Gilberto Murillo-Urrutia has more than 30 years of experience in public policy design, implementation and advocacy; particularly, in the areas of sustainable regional development, natural resources, environmental protection, social inclusion and peace building. Murillo-Urrutia is a Mining Engineer with a Master of Science in Engineering. He is currently a Martin Luther King, Jr. Visiting Scholar and Fellow at MIT Environmental Solutions Initiative. In this capacity, Murillo-Urrutia advices and leads applied policy research on the intersection of community and nature-based solutions to climate change and environmental justice. He is also affiliated to the Center for Latino and Latin American Studies (CLALS) at American University in Washington, DC as Research Fellow. He was a central figure in leading the formulation and implementation of the national climate change policy framework under the Paris Agreement, the national climate change management law, the national carbon tax, and the community-oriented voluntary carbon market during his tenure as Colombian Minister of Environment and Sustainable Development. Through his various roles in government and civil society, Murillo-Urrutia has been on the front lines of conceiving of and realizing a new and better future for the people of Colombia.
Rafael Zanatta44. Director of the Data Privacy Brazil Research Association. He holds a master’s degree from the University of São Paulo (USP) Law School and is a doctoral candidate at the USP Energy and Environment Institute. He holds a master’s degree in Law and Economics from the University of Turin. Alumni of the Privacy Law and Policy Course at the University of Amsterdam. Research Fellow at The New School (USA). Member of the Latin American Network of Surveillance, Technology and Society (Lavits) and of the Brazilian Institute of Tort Law (IBERC). and Bruno Bioni55. Director of the Data Privacy Brazil Research Association. He is a doctoral candidate in Commercial Law and holds a master’s degree in Civil Law from the USP Law School. Trainee of the European Data Protection Board and the Council of Europe’s Data Protection Department. Member of the Latin American Network of Surveillance, Technology and Society (Lavits).
It is the year 2021 and the promotion and defence of human rights has never been such an urgent issue on the global agenda as it is now. With the number of Covid-19 deaths in the world rapidly approaching the 4-million-mark, close to 180 million confirmed cases and a distressing geopolitical scenario in relation to the vaccination of the population of countries in the South, the outlook is quite bleak.
The pandemic has deepened the global economic crisis, increased social inequality and limited the access of the majority of the world population to rights even further, generating specific and much more harmful impacts on black and indigenous communities. For Sur 31, we are interested in the international debate on human rights in this context. Our goal is to understand the challenges the movement is facing while we continue to listen to and amplify the voices of individuals and groups who seek justice, defend territories, demand freedom and engage in so many other ways of fighting for rights.
Sur dedicated its last six dossiers to the themes of gender and women’s struggles; natural resources; the shrinking of democratic space; race; religion; and human rights defenders. Our commitment to fostering critical analysis of important issues on the human rights agenda in the Global South has led to internal processes to review editorial policies. This triggered a series of important measures that have transformed the journal’s entire elaboration process. These include a new frequency of publication, which will allow for better use of the Journal’s content, as well as the adoption of racial representativeness and inclusive language as key elements of our editorial policy.
The last edition of Sur was produced during the first year of the Covid-19 pandemic and focused specifically on the stories of human rights defenders. By giving priority to people and their stories, many issues were touched on, but not explored in depth.
While retaining a broader thematic scope, the call for papers for Sur 31: Human rights in the midst of the pandemic: impacts and answers is seeking contributions that offer a more in-depth analysis on three umbrella issues that are crucial at the moment, which are: “The Covid-19 pandemic and its impacts on human rights”; “Indigenous peoples, black/afro-descendant communities, climate justice and the environment”; and “Vigilantism and security”. A more detailed presentation of these issues follows below.
The people at the bottom of the economic and social pyramid are always the ones to experience the most devastating impacts during crisis situations or large-scale disasters. The health crisis caused by the Covid-19 pandemic has affected impoverished and vulnerable communities the most – that is, the ones who have difficulty in accessing food, drinking water, transportation and health; who live and work in precarious and unhealthy conditions; who often have comorbidities or face instability due to their legal and/or migration status. These people have been severely affected by the virus and its deadly effects,66. In the month of May alone, 31% of deaths due to Covid-19 were in Latin America and the Caribbean. “América Latina ultrapassa um milhão de mortes por covid-19”, DW, May 22, 2021, accessed June 25, 2021, https://www.dw.com/pt-br/am%C3%A9rica-latina-ultrapassa-um-milh%C3%A3o-de-mortes-por-covid-19/a-57631745. as well as the deterioration of living conditions. As a result, their chances of having a life with dignity in the future are also reduced.
Besides focusing on who is exposed the most to infection, who has the greatest risk of dying, losing their job and home and who goes hungry – in other words, who has had most of their rights violated – it is also necessary to inquire about, in this context, who does have access to treatment, can be vaccinated and will live to tell their own story. Hunger, gender violence, job insecurity and repression are all part of the panorama of a globally racialized pandemic.
We also cannot forget that in the midst of the suffering, mourning, hunger and uncertainty that are inherent to this context, people have been creating spaces of social and political coordination and solidarity networks. In general, we have watched movements prove their resilience and we have witnessed the emergence of various forms of collective organizing and work aimed at both mitigating the concrete negative impacts on impoverished communities in the periphery and seeking structural solutions at the regional and international levels.
In view of this scenario, we are interested in submissions that propose an intersectoral approach and respond to the following questions:
Protecting the environment is fundamental for the survival of the human species, which makes it crucial and urgent for the world to face this important challenge through the guarantee of fundamental rights. As such, gender and racial issues cannot be excluded from this debate. The struggle for climate justice has the potential to bring together concern about nature and the recognition of multiple forms of oppression that give rise to socioenvironmental racism.
In this issue of Sur, we would like to highlight the relationship between climate justice and human rights, while paying special attention to indigenous peoples’ and black/afro-descendant communities’ rights and the violation of these rights during the pandemic. We aim to bring together the narratives and practices used to confront the climate crisis based on an approach that takes into consideration the debates on intersectionalities, territorialities and the various forms of resistance to the asymmetrical organization of power and knowledge. Based on this, we would like to receive contributions that attempt to answer some of the following questions:
In the 26th issue of Sur (2017), we discussed the growing number of restrictions that have been imposed on democratic space in several countries in recent years, and in the 27th issue (2018), we reflected on the Internet and democracy. Criticisms of the rapid geographic expansion of vigilantism and the various ways that governments limit and threaten civil society alert us to the risks of laws that restrict the exercise of freedoms and democracy. Laws adopted under the pretext of the ‘war on terrorism’ and national cyber security and surveillance laws seem particularly dangerous, as they establish regimes of exception for data collection and highly invasive investigating methods. This has been due to the rapid development of specialized tracking and surveillance technologies and software that give governments unlimited access to data and allow them to centralize information, without institutions having the necessary maturity and without effective oversight mechanisms in place.
How the information is used; whose hands it is in; and how it affects specific groups’ human rights are some of the concerns of the organizations fighting for an open and healthy civic space in the context of the indiscriminate use of these technologies. This includes questions about privacy, data protection, vigilantism, repression, tracking of citizens and especially the biases in the algorithms used for facial recognition. Facial recognition systems “are less accurate for people with dark skin and are used more to identify non-white persons, often with disastrous results”.77. “Más de 15 Mil Cámaras con Reconocimiento Facial Vigilan a los Neoyorquinos: Amnistía Internacional”, R3D, June 8, 2021, accessed July 6, 2021, https://r3d.mx/2021/06/08/mas-de-15-mil-camaras-con-reconocimiento-facial-vigilan-a-los-neoyorquinos-amnistia-internacional/. This allows biases and prejudices to be perpetuated in criminal investigation activities, while dressing them up in technological clothes.
Migrants and refugees have also been affected by these technologies, which are often discriminatory, violate their right to privacy and pose a threat to their safety. The Covid-19 pandemic accelerated the use of surveillance technology and this has increased the violations of the rights of these groups.88. The US government uses facial recognition apps to process asylum applications: Molly O’Toole, “Exclusive: Biden has quietly deployed an app for asylum seekers. Privacy experts are worried.” Los Angeles Times, June 4, 2021, accessed June 25, 2021, https://www.latimes.com/politics/story/2021-06-04/asylum-bidens-got-an-app-for-that-with-privacy-risks-and-surveillance-beyond-border.
In relation to this issue, we would like to receive contributions that help us answer some of the following questions:
In addition to these three themes, we recognize that the struggle for human rights in 2021 has had many faces and adopted various forms of action, and that the crisis caused by the pandemic affects vulnerable people and their local agendas differently. Therefore, Conectas Human Rights in partnership with Associação Data Privacy Brasil Research invites everyone to send contributions in the form of articles, narratives, essays, case studies, institutional opinion pieces and/or artwork for the 31st edition of Sur that discuss one of the themes mentioned above or other issues relevant to the human rights movement’s agenda at the current time. Preference will be given to authors from the Global South. The deadline for submissions is August 30, 2021.
Sur Journal (email@example.com) welcomes submissions (in Portuguese, English or Spanish) with 7,000-20,000 characters (with spaces) in the following formats: