Vaccination is a human right that must be respected, protected, and fulfilled, thus universal access to an affordable, accessible and equitable vaccine is crucial, said Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein.
He said international cooperation is extremely crucial at this juncture to ensure effective coordination and follow up on efforts of the United Nations system to promote and ensure global access to medicines, vaccines and medical equipment to face COVID-19.
He said in the same spirit, Malaysia has joined the COVAX Global Vaccines Facility, and is collaborating with countries around the world to ensure that vaccines must be made a global public good.
“The world is anxiously waiting for the development of a safe and effective vaccine to stem COVID-19, and some countries have also begun their national roll-out plans or are taking part in Phase Three Clinical Trials.
“While these are positive developments, there is a high risk that global competition will increase the prices of vaccines and other medical treatment which will affect our efforts for global immunity,” he said in his opening speech at the 2020 International Human Rights Day Virtual Forum, in conjunction with the World Human Rights Day today.
Meanwhile, Hishammuddin said the Malaysian government has identified that the economic impacts of the pandemic have affected more women than men, thus gender-responsive policies under the PRIHATIN and PENJANA stimulus packages has been implemented, including cash assistance for single mothers, childcare subsidies and flexible work arrangements.
“We are also focused on addressing the rise in gender-based violence cases during the pandemic, and took measures to safeguard and protect women by setting up helplines, online advocacy, shelters and providing counselling services.
“The welfare of migrants, refugees, and stateless people in Malaysia were also not forgotten and have been given equal importance with free health screenings and medical treatments related to COVID-19 provided for all foreign nationals, regardless of their immigration status,” he said.
He said Malaysia remains committed to following up on the recommendations received during the 3rd Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in November 2018, and that, to this end, a multi-stakeholder biannual consultation, involving all line agencies, academia and civil society, has been institutionalised.
“From these consultations, we also recognise the need to improve our monitoring mechanism and have agreed to use the National Recommendations Tracking Database (NRTD) developed by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), as it will facilitate monitoring and coordination among agencies.
“It is worth mentioning that this year Malaysia was selected by OHCHR as one of the six model countries for its ‘Study on Good Practices emerging from the UPR’, and through the study, OHCHR will produce a public report on good practices emerging from the UPR which would serve as reference material for countries in future UPRs,” he said.
Hishammuddin said, therefore, Malaysia will present its candidature to the Human Rights Council for the 2022-2024 term.
“The Human Rights Council embodies the spirit of multilateralism, which Malaysia continues to advocate and as a member of the HRC, Malaysia will work closely with all actors to drive progress on human rights at home and globally,” he said.
Meanwhile, UN Resident Coordinator for Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei, Stefan Priesner commended Malaysia’s recent development of the effective system to monitor the implementation of the UPR recommendations.
“I would like to acknowledge Malaysia’s commitment to human rights…The UN has been proud to work with your beautiful country since before the independence, and we have been pleased to support Malaysia in the various human rights efforts.
“We also recognise the important role of the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) for the promotion and protection of human rights, and we stand ready to support the government and other partners now and future…and look forward to further strengthening the collaboration by signing the UN Sustainable Development Cooperation Framework as soon as possible,” he added.