Press Release

Information Note #2: Human rights & UN Cambodia’s COVID-19 Response

18 May 2021

Below provides an update on United Nations in Cambodia response to the current community outbreak and COVID-19 measures.


  • The United Nation’s engagement with the Royal Government of Cambodia is guided by the international human rights treaties and covenants the government has voluntarily accepted, the Sustainable Development Goals, principles of Leave No One Behind, and the Secretary General’s Call to Action on Human Rights. As emphasized by the Secretary-General Policy Brief on COVID-19 and Human Rights adopted in April 2020, the United Nations has emphasized with the government that human rights are key in shaping the pandemic responses, both for the public health emergency and the broader impact on people’s lives and livelihood.


  • The United Nations recognizes the need to implement measures, such as lockdown, to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The lockdown creates a situation in which the crucial objective of public health has to be balanced with the rights and other urgent needs of individuals and communities, especially lower income families. The United Nations has advocated with the government for greater compliance of human rights-based approach in its public health measures that prioritizes communication with communities in order to ensure that needs are identified and that access to food, medical and other essential needs are met, including through the delivery of relief to those who cannot afford to pay for it.


  • The United Nations in Cambodia has urged the authorities to prioritize the most vulnerable population in its response. The United Nations will continue to advocate with the authorities to consult and engage with relevant stakeholders and representatives of the concerned population beforehand and throughout the process and duration of implementation of COVID-19 control measures. The United Nations has also engaged with the government to amend the laws and policies, which are not in line with international human rights norms and standards. It has further engaged with the government to advocate for greater protection of vulnerable people including women, children, and persons with disability.


  • In the context of the spread of COVID-19 at Preah Sihanouk provincial prison, the United Nations and humanitarian partners are currently coordinating its efforts and will be providing immediate humanitarian aid to the General Department of Prisons to mitigate the risks and contain the spread of COVID-19. Since the onset of the pandemic, the United Nations has advocated with various government ministries and has offered technical support to use alternative to detention to address overcrowding prison condition. The United Nations reiterates its previous calls to consider this measure especially for juveniles, pregnant women, prisoners with pre-existing medical conditions, pre-trial detainees, and those held for non-violent crimes.


  • The COVID-19 pandemic exposes the vulnerability of social and healthcare services in Cambodia, which is resulting in people being pushed back into poverty. The United Nations is currently advocating with the government on how its national resources can be realigned to ensure that health and social protection-related spending are prioritized to meet its obligation in the context of progressive realization of economic and social rights. 





UN Cambodia’s Response to COVID-19 Information Notes are official documents from the United Nations in Cambodia intended for the media and other partners. They are prepared by the Office of the UN Resident Coordinator.

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