For too long, we have relied on women and girls to provide care and support to family and community members, with three-quarters of unpaid care work being done globally by women and girls. This unpaid or underpaid work is socially unrecognized, reinforcing exclusion and discrimination faced by women and girls throughout their lives. At the same time, the voices of those giving and receiving care – older people, those with disabilities, children or the sick – including those who are women, have not been heard, or worse, ignored.
One of the key lessons we learned – and are still learning – from the COVID-19 pandemic is that we need to transform our care and support systems. All of us need support and care that enable us to participate in society, and to live in dignity and with choice. We must honour the incredible work of care and support givers, particularly women, and at the same time ensure their full enjoyment of human rights.
The pandemic exacerbated the inequalities resulting from these deficiencies in care systems and spotlighted those most impacted, particularly those facing discrimination, such as migrants, racial, ethnic and other minorities, indigenous peoples, and those living in rural areas, among others.
Care and support should not merely be seen as an act of charity. It’s a matter of human rights. Both those providing and receiving care and support have rights. That means support and care systems must respect and advance the enjoyment of human rights for all.
We need to radically reshape our understanding of support and care systems. The economic and social value of care work must be recognized. Informal care and support should be reduced, and roles and responsibilities redistributed between men and women, families, communities and States.
As we mark the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it is time to revisit how we can advance progress on the promise of this milestone document. I call on States to take concrete steps towards establishing support and care systems that are human rights-based, gender-responsive, disability-inclusive and age-sensitive. This commitment is particularly relevant in light of preparations for the SDG Summit in September, where I hope the care and support agenda will be fully reflected as a key lever to sustainable development.
It is time we transform the existing systems, and ensure that the rights of those providing and receiving support and care everywhere are protected, for their personal well-being and sustenance and those of their families and communities.
The 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) will be marked on 10 December 2023. Written and adopted by representatives from all regions of the world, the UDHR makes it clear human rights are universal, indivisible, and the foundation for peace and development. During the course of the year, we will showcase the UDHR by focusing on its legacy, its transformative power and inspiring energy.