2020 marks the start of the decade of action to deliver the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. It is a critical period to accelerate responses to the world’s biggest challenges – from eliminating poverty and hunger to reversing climate change, providing quality education and health services to all or reducing inequalities. Yet, the COVID-19 outbreak, both as a public health emergency and the trigger of a grave economic crisis, is threatening the progress made and risks putting the world on the wrong track.
Human Rights law recognizes that there are limits to freedom in the face of emergencies. To prevent the spread of COVID-19, lockdown has been imposed in a number of countries. Similarly, containment zones have been demarcated. Prima facie these are human rights violations as curbs on freedom. Many prisoners have tested positive – including undertrials. This is not a ‘punishment’ they can be meted out. Keeping this in mind, how do we strike a balance- and work in the sphere? With courts increasingly going online- does that prove to be a barrier for certain parts of the community? Particularly as pro bono lawyers, how do we engage with the ideas? How do we prepare for the future? What kind of considerations do we, as pro bono lawyers weigh in on? Post the pandemic, all sectors of the society will have to come together to work on a sustainable future where individual freedom, accessible healthcare and human dignity is ensured- keeping in mind goals of the SDGs.