COVID-19 does not put an end to the unchecked human rights violations around the world; it only exacerbates the situation of many groups that were vulnerable before the pandemic, including women, children and young people, those in precarious situations or who are in need of special access to health services, Black people, Indigenous people, and People of Color.
In many countries, leaders have even used COVID-19 as a pretext for neglecting their human rights obligations and, in certain situations, to limit the rights and freedoms of a civil society. Human rights education restores the tools that people in vulnerable situations need to defend and protect their rights. It is therefore fundamental to the protection of vulnerable groups in a pandemic, but we need to strictly follow local and international health and safety measures while we do it.
It is our responsibility to protect our personnel, our partners, our participants, and our volunteers against any potential harm associated with our activities during the pandemic. We are committed to offering safe transformative human rights education programs that uphold and protect the rights of all.
Equitas has made most of its activities virtual since March 2020. The rules that we follow are constantly adjusted to conform to government and public health recommendations. Currently, the majority of Equitas’ employees are working from home, depending on their province of residence.
Since March 2020, all international trips have been cancelled. While we give preference to virtual activities, some of our initiatives, such as training and workshops, do take place in person. In-person activities only take place in countries where government regulations permit them. It is important that Equitas acknowledges the expertise of our partners in the South and the fact that context, lived reality, and constraints vary from one place in the world to another.
The following is an overview of the process we have adopted to reduce pandemic-related health risks when organizing an in-person activity outside of Canada:
About two months before organizing an activity, we implement a rigorous risk-evaluation process in collaboration with our local partners. If the risk of a COVID-19 outbreak is deemed to be moderate or high and this risk cannot be attenuated by applying preventative measures, the activity is simply canceled.
If the risk-analysis is favourable, Equitas’ staff collaborates remotely with our colleagues on site who are responsible for logistics and running the event. Equitas is committed to providing all necessary information and resources to our employees, partners, and participants so that we can reduce the risks they may be susceptible to during our activities and ensure that adequate safety measures are taken and that we respect the public health regulations of the country where the in-person activity or meeting takes place.
Equitas insists on the following minimum public health requirements at each of its in-person events wherever they may take place in the world. Equitas and its partners may go above and beyond these recommendations at any time: