#CoDYouthLeads Voices on Human Rights Day: Message from CoD Youth Lead Bryan Griffin from the US
On Human Rights Day, we have asked the CoD Youth Leads to share their messages to highlight the importance of human rights and democratic values.
Human Rights Day Message from Bryan Griffin
This year’s Human Rights Day is celebrated against the somber backdrop of a COVID-19 pandemic. As the world scrambles to stay safe, this day is an occasion to reiterate that human rights must not be ignored in a crisis.
In my home country, the U.S., our Constitution was born out of a rebellion. We chafe at government edicts. We have lived with the same government since that rebellion. We will accept restrictions when necessary for health and safety, but they have to be temporary, effective, and be consistent with our Constitution. It is the Constitution that ensures our freedoms and the continued preservation of our rights.
I’m proud of the American example of government. It’s important to be consistently aware of the boundaries of government action. All the more during this pandemic.
Governments around the world are examining various courses of action in response to the virus. Many have implemented strict lockdowns and heavy regulations.
Governments take note: human rights are natural rights and persist through a crisis.
Liberty is one of the most fundamental of human rights. COVID-prompted restrictions on liberty should be both necessary and temporary.
Responsible government action to reduce COVID fatalities should be ordered with clear and articulated limits.
Lockdowns and mandates have caused many around the world to lose their livelihoods and face severe economic burdens. Likewise, the collateral effects of lockdowns like mental health issues and suicide rates are climbing.
These things must be weighed against the effectiveness of a government’s measure to reduce transmission. Good government policy is both examined and accountable.
In the U.S., the Supreme Court had to step in and remind some state governors that they don’t get to be arbitrary decisionmakers about what types of activities are “necessary” to people, and which are not.
For example, religious liberty is a human right. Writing for the majority, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote:
“It is time—past time—to make plain that, while the pandemic poses many grave challenges, there is no world in which the Constitution tolerates color-coded executive edicts that reopen liquor stores and bike shops but shutter churches, synagogues, and mosques.”
COVID regulations, no matter how urgent, must always remain accountable to the democratic process. We must jealously guard against policy by edict. No pandemic exempts a democratic government from the democratic process. A government should reflect the will of its people—even in its emergency measures. International bodies should aid in joint efforts among governments of the world that reflect the will of the people. They too must remember that they ought to reflect their constituent nations and, in turn, those nations’ constituents.
It’s worth repeating.
Where government intervention is necessary to protect the population from further transmission and fatality, the agreement must be clear and temporary between the people and authorities.
Good COVID policy must be honest, and constantly reassessed. So much is at stake.
The world can beat this virus and preserve human rights, like the right to liberty. No matter how bad things may seem, these goals are never at odds.
Read Bryan’s story as part of the #CoDYouthLeads campaign
#CoDYouthLeads is a social media campaign, in which young people share their personal stories, highlighting the relevance of the democratic principles of the Warsaw Declaration to young generation. Any views expressed by the CoD Youth Leads remain personal and should not be perceived as opinions of the Community of Democracies (CoD) or the Permanent Secretariat of the Community of Democracies. CoDYouthLeads is not a formal group acting on behalf of the CoD.