Home > Series II: Building a Community with a Shared Future for Human Beings & International Cooperation in

Participants opened discussion on the priority of rights
Under ECHR, ICCPR, some rights are non-derogable, some are. It means some rights cannot be departed from, but some UN Resolutions and conferences also say that we should not prioritize any rights. There are also differences between the North and the South, and between the East and the West. We should make sure all of them are on the table at the same time. 
 
In addition they pointed out that maybe the right to life, right to health are paramount, and right to livelihood. You cannot confine populations on the daily basis, stop them from leaving their homes and making a living, then you confine them to death. Restrictive measures should be reasonable, and take considerations local populations into consideration. You tell somebody to wash hands, but if he/she doesn’t have access to water, you can’t stop them from going out if they have to make a living. We should take account of the reality, and the measures should be helpful.
 
Petter: Good question. There is no hierarchy among rights in the CCPR. Rights are of equal value; we don’t have much guidance on setting priority. We have derogable and non-derogable rights, but apart from that it is very hard to tell; they are interdependent. 
 
Zhang Wei: In China, we have a community to help people, to help people in lockdown situation, and to help vulnerable people. If I need something, I can call the people in charge of the neighborhood. We emphasize on individual duties, not only rights. It is a less selfish conception. Though it was Chinese New Year, many people needed to go home to visit their families, but they chose not to. Because we knew it was not good for people. There is a long-standing debate about which rights come first, first we emphasize on the protection of people’s livelihood. For example, people need to eat and need education with quality, but that doesn’t mean we can ignore other human rights. Also, we emphasize on international cooperation. For that reason, I hope to talk about international cooperation. We want to see international solidary. No country will be safe if other countries are left out. 
 
Petter: Yes, I like your view about the need for international cooperation. We don’t prioritize, but we implement differently. If we restrict freedom of movement, we also protect other rights.
 
Lu Zhian:I agree human rights are equal in nature, sometimes we have different situations. When facing the emergency, we need to focus on certain rights, we don’t ignore other rights. We are not prioritizing human rights, but focusing on how to tackle the human rights issues. It doesn’t mean some rights have higher hierarchy, but we need to deal with these rights first. Maybe this situation will be repeated if there is no effective vaccine, we will have a new “normal”, should we rethink how human rights standards could be adjusted to that?
 
(He Zhipeng: Interesting to hear your remarks on Russia, and we should have more solidarity. There are countries that investigate on how COVID-19 happened. Do you think it is possible that China could be more transparent on this issue, and WHO could have a mandate in this? He Zhipeng answered: Int’l cooperation could be more smoothly and closely done under their guidance.)
 
Q and A Session: Arts and music are important to understand common values, but politicians are still struggling over powers. How could we combine the arts into politics, to combine common understanding into daily international politics?
 
Zhang Wanhong: Politics are practiced by political leaders, but common arts could raise the common understanding of ordinary people, people sometimes can influence government’s attitudes. When I was studying in Canada, the whole day was devoted to learning how to write a human rights song, the lyrics. It was taught by old ladies. They used songs to push anti-war campaign, and to influence decision makers, the politicians. When I visited Switzerland, there was a big concert. Pop stars sent the message and showed their attitudes. They expressed their ideas. 
 
Petter Wille: It is interesting to hear the culture aspect. We should not only think about ourselves, but others. It is also UN’s message, which is no one could be in this alone. I think there is still room for cooperation at all levels. Sharing infomation and monitoring are all important. UN treaty bodies, special procedures also address how states could respond to COVID-19 from a human aspect. You also mentioned human security, not only military security but also human security. 
 
Expert thought that culture is important, and it is always important. But we should also be careful with culture. There is a positive aspect, but you can also find culture glorifying war and conflicts, which is not part of our human rights picture. We should highlight and underline that. 
 
Sun Meng: I have one question for Prof. He, with global governance emerges, the importance of global cooperation has showed, but do you think international cooperation is a compulsory obligation, or just soft law? Very few governments have the intention or wiliness to do so, could you explain whether it is soft law or not. 
 
He Zhipeng: Many scholars have discussed this issues in books and articles. My personal view is that we cannot see any oblationary provisions, in UN charter, or instruments. There are some traces of promoting international cooperation, but till now, international law does not require states to cooperate with each other. These obligations do not show without prior obligations. 
 
Sun Meng: About derogation, there is no relevant derogation in ICESCR? How could the government derogate if there is no such article as guidance? 
 
Petter: There is no such provision, but we have art.2 in general. There might be financial constraint of the government. 
 
Sun Meng: I think there should be some rule about the derogation, such as right to health.
 
Petter: You can look at art 4 of ICESCR.
 
Question: As noticed that article written by a professor from Georgetown University, he described the lockdown policy in China as an human rights violation. What do you think about this?
 
- During emergency, yes, States can make lockdowns, they can restrict the freedom of movement, and states can impose limitations. There are now court cases challenging the lockdowns. Many countries take this kind of measures without making an announcement (for derogation), we could wait to see that how the domestic courts and international courts view this issue, but now my point is, if it is for the common good, it could be down. 
 
Petter: Restrictions, they should be monitored, if we see Article 11 of ECHR, restrictions should be prescribed by law, necessary in democratic society, in the interests of national security or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.?
 
Question from Zhang Wei: What kind of international cooperation do you expect?
 
- not only response to current pandemic, but there is a likelihood of other pandemic, could be more serious, also climate changes, you name it. We should use this opportunity to development policy guidelines and handbooks, How to do it? Cooperation is important, not only bilateral, but also regional and international cooperation, through international organization, UN, WHO, etc. We can develop ideas on applicable standards available of monitoring. We see more flexibility for cooperation, not only in epidemic, but also in climate and transportation.
 
Petter: I agree, we need strong international cooperation. No countries could do this along. 
 
Zhang Wanhong: we want to emphasize the information about cooperation. Weeks ago, I shared what we have done during the epidemic. We have younger colleague. We develop a book about how the stakehold to deal with the epidemic. In that way, we can share our experience. We put them into Chinese, and sent them to the government. 
 
Liu xiaonan: The discussion will be helpful, and we hope the epidemic will end soon, thank you very much.
 
Zhang Wei: Let’s stay safe and wish all the best for the future, thank you!