Newsletter March 2020


EFPA Board Human Rights and Psychology Newsletter

Year 4 Edition 3 – March 2020

The third edition of the 2020 Newsletter of the EFPA Board Human Rights and Psychology, is mostly dedicated to Human rights in a time of Corona.

Also, to two international days: International Women’s Day on March 8 and the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination on March 21


Human rights in a time of Corona

We are worried about the ongoing corona crisis. We are worried about our loved-ones, about people around us, and about of those in vulnerable situations. We think about the refugees in Syria, at the Turkish borders, at the Mexican/US borders and elsewhere, of those on the move, of people ‘sans papiers’, and in the many refugee camps, in particular camps with subhuman standards, such as the Moria camp. We think of the homeless and the stateless; of children in need of getting away from their home environment, and those separated from their good and stable caretakers outside their homes, not being able to follow quality education; of elderly deprived from their caring families and friends; of the health care-takers working day and night. We think about regions where persons are deprived of necessary medical health provisions, where they may be suffering already from the terrible consequences of hurricanes, fires or floods; or of the countries in southern Europe struggling with the cut back on health care spending during the Eurozone debt crisis. And we are worried about the discrimination we see towards people from certain countries from where the virus seemed to have originated [1].

Basic human rights in situations of emergency

(Nora Sveaass)

In situations of emergency and crisis there is a need for measures and arrangements set up for the common good, including altering and setting limitations to what is considered regular rights and routines in our daily lives. Emergencies may therefore give rise to situations where basic human rights are under pressure, or even disrespected over and beyond what seems necessary, reasonable and proportional to the situation in hand. The kind of emergency situations that we may encounter are many - armed conflict, terror, natural disasters, major accidents with severe environmental consequences or pandemics. In all the instances, good governance is to protect, ensure safety and security and prevent escalation of the crisis, whatever it may be. To this end, both international and national legislation contain guidelines in relation to regulating the behaviour, rights and security of the population. On the one hand we have the balancing act between what is necessary in order to stop, contain and prevent, in this case an aggressive and fast spreading virus, and on the other, what may seem unjustified in this process regarding rights and safeguards. In this context, we may speak about derogable and non-derogable rights. The derogable rights are those that under exceptional situations amounting to a public emergency, may be set aside, as measures of temporary nature. Examples of this is what is now happening in most places, serious reduction in movement, access to work, school, regular health care, even deprivation of liberty for limited time, e.g. quarantines. The need to derogate rights in emergencies and the conditions laid down for such enforcement are elaborated in the documents referred to below[2], [3]. What may not be set aside are the so-called non-derogable rights, such as the right not to be tortured. This is clearly expressed in article 2 of the UN Convention Against Torture, which reads:  “No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture”.[4] 

A particular attention must be given to those who already find themselves in deprived situations, such as persons detained in prisons, in involuntary psychiatric treatment, in closed migration centres and other facilities where individuals are not allowed to leave. In situations of emergency, there is a risk that their regular rights and the few benefits they enjoy may be further limited, including contact with family, work, training, health care etc. To reinforce this attention and as guidance to those who are engaged in monitoring of these places, such as the National Preventive Mechanisms, the two international bodies dedicated to the prevention of torture, have issued important statements in relation to this. The UN Subcommittee on the Prevention of Torture issued a statement regarding compulsory quarantine for Coronavirus in February [5], and is now expanding on this issue in an upcoming document. Likewise, the Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) of the European Council, issued a statement of principles on March 20[6]. Both documents represent useful guidelines and awareness raising input.

Emergencies are challenging times, and there is a need for collaboration and solidarity in order to deal with the difficulties implied. But the democratic principles, transparency and information must never be set aside, and it is our duty also to keep a clear focus on this and include the many who, from very different and highly vulnerable situations, as mentioned above, may, through emergency measures be even more vulnerable, marginalized or forgotten than before the exceptional circumstances were declared. A good summary of the situation we are in, and the role of human rights is provided by Michael O’Flaherty, the Director of the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights, in this in this video link 

 Vulnerable groups, like elderly people, refugees, children.

A Canadian colleague wrote: ‘Like many others at the present time, I am quite consumed with the effects the COVID-19 is having. Yet, I am mostly worried about the life of many vulnerable groups. At this time in particular, I am concerned about those individuals who depend on informal care for their day to day living and dignity, especially the case of older adults in assisted care who are in a lockdown housing complex.’ ‘I would hope that one of the areas to examine would be the right to have access to professional psychological support during this type of crisis. Given some of our recent research with ageing people (link) on the one hand, and with informal care givers on the other (LaFrance, Driese, Gouliquer, & Poulin, submitted[7]) when I voice my concern, it is about these two groups that I am thinking, but there are many others (e.g., individuals living in refugee camps, survivors of floods or earth quake). It seems to me that there is a lot to do on these fronts, especially as the average individuals’ age increases’.

Worth reading:

Human Rights Watch: Human rights dimensions of COVID-19 response Read

Ethics Resources on the Coronavirus. As communities across the world work to navigate the pandemic, The Hastings Center assembled ethics resources for responding to novel Coronavirus (COVID-19). We will update this hub throughout the public health emergency. Read

  • As coronavirus deepens inequality, inequality worsens its spread. Link: Read
  • Academic freedom in the time of coronavirus. Read
  • Coronavirus hits ill and disabled people hardest, so why is society writing us off? Read
  • Labour rights in time of Pandemic. Read
  • NGOs raise alarm as coronavirus strips support from EU refugees. Read
  • Wash our Hands? Some people can’t wash their kids for a week.  Read
  • UN News: COVID-19: countries, businesses must safeguard human rights as virus spreads: Bachelet. Read
  • HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH. Coronavirus Power Grab in Hungary: Daily Briefing
    Coronavirus power grab in Hungary; people with disabilities at risk in the United Kingdom; curfew violators in Philippines locked up in dog cages; China’s weak excuse to block investigations in Xinjiang; Moscow silently expands surveillance of citizens; access to internet is a fundamental right in times of pandemic; Thailand's clampdown on free speech; and human rights hero goes viral with lockdown workout video. See 

Coping with stress

  • 5 Ways to overcome the psychological stress of coronavirus. Link: Read


Call for actions and initiatives:

  • Impact leaders International, put the following message on the Facebook page Voice4theVoiceless, a platform for displaced and disadvantaged groups. People from all around the globe, especially from those close to the displaced people from Idlib and the people who are stuck on the Greek or Macedonian border, are posting stories and messages. Stories how people reach out. But also, stories from West African influencers and their view of the worldwide pandemic of Corona.

Message to people on the run.

We do not know you. But we follow you and are deeply concerned about your well-being. We know you had no choice other than to leave. We cannot fully understand nor feel where you are going through. You are fighting for your lives and your loved ones. We can only imagine what tremendous effort it takes to go on. Our humanity is intertwined with yours. We know if we allow people to de-humanize you, we dehumanize ourselves. We do not want that. What can we do? And what can you do? We inviting you to share your story. You need someone to listen to your plight, your sorrows and your thoughts. Speak up and let the world know about you.”

Please share your suggestions, articles and good initiatives!

International Women’s Day, March 8 (doc 1 )

Women’s rights in review 25 years after Beijing.

Marking the 25th anniversary of the adoption of the Beijing Platform for Action, as well as the first time that progress on the implementation of the Platform is reviewed in light of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, this report takes an integrated approach to reporting on progress, gaps, and challenges related to the advancement of gender equality and women’s rights. It uses striking data to examine six themes that link the Platform’s critical areas of concern and the Sustainable Development Goals:

  • Inclusive development, shared prosperity, and decent work
  • Poverty eradication, social protection, and social services
  • Freedom from violence, stigma, and stereotypes
  • Participation, accountability, and gender-responsive institutions
  • Peaceful and inclusive societies
  • Environmental conservation, climate action, and resilience-building

To ensure that progress is accelerated and achieved across all these themes, the report calls for four catalysts for change:

  1. Support women’s movements and leadership,
  2. Harness technology for gender equality,
  3. Ensure no one is left behind, and
  4. Match commitments with resources.

It highlights that what’s needed now is a concerted drive to scale up, expand, and deepen policies and programmes that can accelerate the implementation of the entire Platform for Action for this generation and the next.

Worth reading:

  • UNDP: 2020 Human development perspectives. Tackling social norms. A game changer for gender inequalities. Link
  • UN WOMEN 2020: Women’s rights in review 25 years after Beijing. Link
  • UN News: International Women's Day: progress on gender equality remains slow. Link


International day for the elimination of racial discrimination, March 21 2020

In 1998, the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission delivered its findings on the massacre of March 21, 1960 at Sharpeville. The commission found that “police deliberately opened fire on an unarmed crowd that had gathered peacefully… to protest the pass laws”. As a result of the excessive force used, 69 people were killed and more than 300 injured.”

All these years later, the horror of that day is remembered and its significance is marked every year through the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. Proclaiming the Day in 1966, the UN General Assembly called on the international community to redouble its efforts to eliminate all forms of racial discrimination.

FRA: ‘While ever more countries introduce measures to counter the current health risks, it is important to remember that societies based on solidarity and inclusion are more resilient to fast-changing circumstances, said the heads of three European human rights institutions on the eve of the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.’ Societies stand together. This year, the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination is focused on the midterm review of the International Decade for People of African Descent. As the Decade approaches its half-way mark in 2020, a critical mid-point review will take stock of the progress made and decide on further necessary actions, assessing what countries have accomplished and identifying actions to be taken to improve the human rights situation of Afro-descendants

"I fear that the world is reaching another acute moment in battling the demon of hate," said UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. Against the alarming rise of xenophobia, racism and intolerance, the UN Human Rights Office has launched its #FightRacism campaign to foster a global culture of tolerance, equality and anti-discrimination. In 2020, #FightRacism will highlight the advocacy of some leading figures of global popular culture – sports, music, fashion, movies, TV, amongst others – to advance equality and anti-discrimination.

Join and take action to #FightRacism. Every day, each and every one of us can stand up against racial prejudice and intolerant attitudes.

Racism can be found in structures and in our heads. Structural racism is the systematic discrimination of groups as a consequence of societal structures. An example is unequal access to geographical regions, as e.g., for refugees: People form Africa and form South America are not allowed to enter the Global North just because of their places of origin. This is not so much the result of individual racism of those who take responsibility for such restrictions as it is the consequence of the structure of national states which consider states as a natural entity which has to be confined for their national inborns. Individual racism is our individual conviction about the inequality of groups combined with the stated superiority of our national ingroup.

Psychologists know a lot about the causes and thereby also about the opportunities to fight individual racism. Racism is often based in ignorance and feelings of being threatened by the outgroup – those who know the less about the other group discriminate the most. In line with these considerations, psychological research shows that information about the outgroup and especially contact with outgroup members help to overcome individual racism.

The two, structural and individual racism, are not independent of each other. Therefore, it makes sense to fight individual racism with methods based on psychological, pedagogical and social science research. At least in democracies, reducing individual racism might contribute to changes in the societal climate and thereby help, e.g. through specific voting behaviour in political elections, to reduce structural racism.

Worth reading:

International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

Durban text

Canadian heritage anti-racism engagement

The national action plan and strategy to combat racism in SA

Vatican News

FRA: Societies stand together are more resilient

OHCHR: International decade racism

Italian Soccer’s Anti-Racism Campaign Features Paintings of Monkeys Read



EFPA Board Human Rights and Psychology

·    Meeting of the EFPA BHR&Psy: 15 May online.

·    April 4, release of the book Human rights education for psychologists. See and order: Link to Routledge

 This ground-breaking book is designed to raise awareness of human rights implications in psychology, and provide knowledge and tools enabling psychologists to put a human rights perspective into practice.
Psychologists have always been deeply engaged in alleviating the harmful consequences human rights violations have on individuals. However, despite the fundamental role that human rights play for professional psychology and psychologists, human rights education is underdeveloped in psychologists’ academic and vocational training. This book, the first of its kind, looks to change this, by:

  • raising awareness among professional psychologists, university teachers and psychology students about their role as human rights promoters and protectors
  • providing knowledge and tools enabling them to put a human rights perspective into practice
  • providing texts and methods for teaching human rights.

Featuring chapters from leading scholars in the field, spanning 18 countries and six continents, the book identifies how psychologists can ensure they are practising in a responsible way, as well as contributing to wider society with a clear knowledge of human rights issues in relation to culture, gender, organisations and more.
Including hands-on recommendations, case studies and discussion points, this is essential reading for professional psychologists as part of continuing professional development and those in training and taking psychology courses.


  • FRA/ FRP 
  • weekly 2-9 March (doc 2)
  • weekly 9-16 March (doc 3)
  • weekly 23-30 March (doc 4)
    Publication: Victims’ rights as standards of criminal justice. Justice for victims of violent crime. Part I Download


European institutions, EIUC, CoE, CPT, IOM, ENS, ECCHR, EUPHA 


UN News / WHO

  • Human Rights March (doc 8)
  • Migrants and Refugees (doc 9)


Scholars at Risk (SAR) / NCH

  • Global Congress 2020 goes Virtual (doc 10)
  • Newsletter March 5 (doc 11)
  • Newsletter March 13-19 (doc 12)


Children’s Rights

  • A future for the world's children? A WHO–UNICEF–Lancet Commission. No time to lose. Read full text



A third of Poland declared ‘LGBT-Free Zone’.Balkan Insight


Press, articles, books

  • The Guardian: How to be hopeful: Colum McCann on the broken violin that played in a refugee camp. Read
  • International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) March 2020 (doc 13)
    2020 Annual Report. The Annual Report presents the work of the IHRA under the Luxembourg Presidency in an easy-to-approach format. Read more about significant events, personal highlights, and what the leadership of the IHRA sees as the greatest challenges and accomplishments of the past year.READ THE 2019 ANNUAL REPORT


Conferences, Grants, Contributions and Events


[1]Trump: “Chinese virus,” (NYT, March 19)


[2] Guide on Article 15 of the European Convention on Human Rights Derogation in time of emergency

[3]CCPR General Comment No. 29: Article 4: Derogations during a State of Emergency.

[7]LaFrance, M. N., Driese, E., Gouliquer, L., & Poulin, C. (submitted). “We’re not doing it to be nasty”: Ethical dilemmas in caregivers’ accounts of negotiating driving safety with their aging loved ones. Canadian Journal of Aging.