Joint Statement on Data Protection and Privacy in the COVID-19 Response

The United Nations, IOM, ITU, OCHA, OHCHR, UNDP, UNEP, UNESCO, UNHCR, UNICEF, UNOPS, UPU, UN Volunteers, UN Women, WFP and WHO support the adoption of the following joint statement, in line with the UN Personal Data Protection and Privacy Principles  adopted by the UN System Organizations to support its use of data and technology in the COVID-19 response in a way that respects the right to privacy and other human rights and promotes economic and social development.

The COVID-19 pandemic has become a global emergency, with devastating consequences in terms of loss of life and economic decline, and significantly hampering progress toward achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Poor and vulnerable communities are particularly imperiled by this deadly disease and its economic ramifications.

Mounting evidence demonstrates that the collection, use, sharing and further processing of data can help limit the spread of the virus and aid in accelerating the recovery, especially through digital contact tracing. Mobility data derived from people’s usage of mobile phones, emails, banking, social media, postal services, for instance, can assist in monitoring the spread of the virus and support the implementation of the UN System Organizations’ mandated activities.[1]

Such data collection and processing, including for digital contact tracing and general health surveillance, may include the collection of vast amounts of personal and non-personal sensitive data. This could have significant effects beyond the initial crisis response phase, including, if such measures are applied for purposes not directly or specifically related to the COVID-19 response, potentially leading to the infringement of fundamental human rights and freedoms. This concern is especially pressing if some emergency measures introduced to address the pandemic, such as digital contact tracing, are turned into standard practice.

The UN Secretary-General highlighted in his policy brief on human rights and COVID-19 that “Human rights are key in shaping the pandemic response, both for the public health emergency and the broader impact on people’s lives and livelihoods. Human rights put people centre-stage. Responses that are shaped by and respect human rights result in better outcomes in beating the pandemic, ensuring healthcare for everyone and preserving human dignity.”

Any data collection, use and processing by UN System Organizations in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic should be rooted in human rights and implemented with due regard to applicable international law, data protection and privacy principles, including the UN Personal Data Protection and Privacy Principles. Any measures taken to address the COVID-19 pandemic should also be consistent with the mandates of the respective UN System Organizations and take into account the balancing of relevant rights, including the right to health and life and the right to economic and social development.

Taking into account the UN Personal Data Protection and Privacy Principles, the UN Secretary-General’s policy brief on human rights and COVID-19, and relevant health and humanitarian standards, data collection, use and processing by  UN System Organizations in their operations should, at a minimum:

  • Be lawful, limited in scope and time, and necessary and proportionate to specified and legitimate purposes in response to the COVID-19 pandemic;
  • Ensure appropriate confidentiality, security, time-bound retention and proper destruction or deletion of data in accordance with the aforementioned purposes;
  • Ensure that any data exchange adheres to applicable international law, data protection and privacy principles, and is evaluated based on proper due diligence and risks assessments;
  • Be subject to any applicable mechanisms and procedures to ensure that measures taken with regard to data use are justified by and in accordance with the aforementioned principles and purposes, and cease as soon as the need for such measures is no longer present; and
  • Be transparent in order to build trust in the deployment of current and future efforts alike.

A coordinated and inclusive global UN-wide response rooted in solidarity is necessary to contain the pandemic and minimize its negative impact across the world. Although the statement is aimed to address the challenges of the current COVID-19 pandemic, it may serve as a precedent for using data to respond to any future crises of a similar scale quickly and while respecting data protection and privacy.


[1] WHO issued “Ethical considerations to guide the use of digital proximity tracking technologies for COVID-19 contact tracing”. More information can be found at https://www.who.int/publications/i/item/WHO-2019-nCoV-Ethics_Contact_tracing_apps-2020.1

The United Nations, IOM, ITU, OCHA, OHCHR, UNDP, UNEP, UNESCO, UNHCR, UNICEF, UNOPS, UPU, UN Volunteers, UN Women, WFP and WHO support the adoption of the following joint statement, in line with the UN Personal Data Protection and Privacy Principles  adopted by the UN System Organizations to support its use of data and technology in the COVID-19 response in a way that respects the right to privacy and other human rights and promotes economic and social development.

The COVID-19 pandemic has become a global emergency, with devastating consequences in terms of loss of life and economic decline, and significantly hampering progress toward achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Poor and vulnerable communities are particularly imperiled by this deadly disease and its economic ramifications.

Mounting evidence demonstrates that the collection, use, sharing and further processing of data can help limit the spread of the virus and aid in accelerating the recovery, especially through digital contact tracing. Mobility data derived from people’s usage of mobile phones, emails, banking, social media, postal services, for instance, can assist in monitoring the spread of the virus and support the implementation of the UN System Organizations’ mandated activities.[1]

Such data collection and processing, including for digital contact tracing and general health surveillance, may include the collection of vast amounts of personal and non-personal sensitive data. This could have significant effects beyond the initial crisis response phase, including, if such measures are applied for purposes not directly or specifically related to the COVID-19 response, potentially leading to the infringement of fundamental human rights and freedoms. This concern is especially pressing if some emergency measures introduced to address the pandemic, such as digital contact tracing, are turned into standard practice.

The UN Secretary-General highlighted in his policy brief on human rights and COVID-19 that “Human rights are key in shaping the pandemic response, both for the public health emergency and the broader impact on people’s lives and livelihoods. Human rights put people centre-stage. Responses that are shaped by and respect human rights result in better outcomes in beating the pandemic, ensuring healthcare for everyone and preserving human dignity.”

Any data collection, use and processing by UN System Organizations in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic should be rooted in human rights and implemented with due regard to applicable international law, data protection and privacy principles, including the UN Personal Data Protection and Privacy Principles. Any measures taken to address the COVID-19 pandemic should also be consistent with the mandates of the respective UN System Organizations and take into account the balancing of relevant rights, including the right to health and life and the right to economic and social development.

Taking into account the UN Personal Data Protection and Privacy Principles, the UN Secretary-General’s policy brief on human rights and COVID-19, and relevant health and humanitarian standards, data collection, use and processing by  UN System Organizations in their operations should, at a minimum:

  • Be lawful, limited in scope and time, and necessary and proportionate to specified and legitimate purposes in response to the COVID-19 pandemic;
  • Ensure appropriate confidentiality, security, time-bound retention and proper destruction or deletion of data in accordance with the aforementioned purposes;
  • Ensure that any data exchange adheres to applicable international law, data protection and privacy principles, and is evaluated based on proper due diligence and risks assessments;
  • Be subject to any applicable mechanisms and procedures to ensure that measures taken with regard to data use are justified by and in accordance with the aforementioned principles and purposes, and cease as soon as the need for such measures is no longer present; and
  • Be transparent in order to build trust in the deployment of current and future efforts alike.

A coordinated and inclusive global UN-wide response rooted in solidarity is necessary to contain the pandemic and minimize its negative impact across the world. Although the statement is aimed to address the challenges of the current COVID-19 pandemic, it may serve as a precedent for using data to respond to any future crises of a similar scale quickly and while respecting data protection and privacy.



[1] WHO issued “Ethical considerations to guide the use of digital proximity tracking technologies for COVID-19 contact tracing”. More information can be found at https://www.who.int/publications/i/item/WHO-2019-nCoV-Ethics_Contact_tracing_apps-2020.1

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WHO and other stakeholders join forces to accelerate access to effective paediatric HIV and tuberculosis diagnostics and medicines

Jum Nov 20 , 2020
<p>On World Children’s Day, WHO is pleased to issue a call urging stakeholders to accelerate access to effective paediatric HIV and tuberculosis (TB) diagnostics and medicines.</p><p><span>The <a href="https://www.paediatrichivactionplan.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Action Plan</a>, which is launched today, has been developed by a wide group of stakeholders under the auspices of the Fifth Vatican High-Level Dialogue on Paediatric HIV and TB in Children Living with HIV which was held earlier this month.     </span></p><p>Children are one of the most disadvantaged populations in the HIV and AIDS and TB response. In 2019, 95 000 AIDS-related deaths occurred in children, two-thirds of those deaths in 21 focus countries. 850 000 children living with HIV were not accessing treatment, 65% of which were aged 5-14 years. These children are also particularly susceptible to co-infection with tuberculosis, a major cause of AIDS-related deaths in this population. In 2019, an estimated 36 000 children who were living with HIV died from TB.</p><p>There are several challenges that hamper the rapid development of paediatric formulations, including lack of paediatric data for new drugs, delay in completion of clinical studies, challenges with taste, and slow market uptake among others. In addition, high prices of diagnostic products, limited availability and accessibility to novel technical and case-finding interventions as well as fragmented and delayed regulatory approvals are some of the challenges faced in finding appropriate diagnostics for children. All in all these delay and affect uptake of essential services to diagnose and treat children with HIV and TB.</p><p>The plan agreed upon by participants of the High Level Dialogue includes pledges to accelerate development of new pediatric HIV and TB formulations; improved diagnostic devices and assays for children with TB; and lower prices for early infant HIV diagnosis.</p><p>Researchers and pharmaceutical companies have committed to continue and expand their collaborations to investigate and develop better medicines for children. Regulators committed to work towards facilitating the regulatory pathways for priority TB and HIV paediatric medicines. Government representatives confirmed their support for advancing widespread availability of new tests and optimal paediatric medicines. Policymakers committed to continue updating their normative work to capture new developments and support prioritization of research and development for medicines and diagnostics. Finally, key donors expressed their commitment by continuing and expanding their investments to support development of better formulations for children.</p><p>Organizers of the High-Level Dialogue included WHO and the Elizabeth Glaser Paediatric Aids Foundation, in their capacity as co-chairs of the AIDS Free Working Group of the Start Free, Stay Free, AIDS Free framework, as well as The US President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), UNAIDS, representatives of faith-based organizations, and the Stop TB partnership. Participants included leaders of major diagnostic and pharmaceutical companies, multilateral organizations, governments, regulators, faith-based organizations, and services providers for children and adolescents living with HIV and TB.</p><p>The 2020 High-Level Dialogue serves as a reminder of the challenges that exist, but also highlights the opportunities we can capitalize on when we work together.  WHO remains committed in working with its partners in ensuring progress towards a Start Free, Stay Free and AIDS Free generation and to reaching the targets as included in the political declaration of the <a href="https://www.who.int/news-room/events/un-general-assembly-high-level-meeting-on-ending-tb">UN General Assembly High Level Meeting on TB</a> and the <a target="_blank" href="https://www.who.int/health-topics/tuberculosis" rel="noopener noreferrer">WHO End TB Strategy</a>. </p><p>"The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare the power of collaboration and partnership to accelerate action. The WHO Global HIV programme recognizes this Action Plan as the roadmap to reset the speed at which innovations in drugs and diagnostics can lead to child-centered impact. We are proud to commit to developing the norms and standards, policies and research agendas on this pathway to success" said Dr Meg Doherty, Director the WHO Global HIV, Hepatitis and STI Programmes.</p>