Pillars for progress on the right to health: Harnessing the potential of human rights through a FCGH

ProgressPillars for progress on the right to health: Harnessing the potential of human rights through a Framework Convention on Global Health

Eric Friedman & Lawrence Gostin
Original article: HHR Journal, June 2012

Ever more constitutions incorporate the right to health, courts continue to expand their right to health jurisprudence, and communities and civil society increasingly turn to the right to health in their advocacy. Yet the right remains far from being realized. Even with steady progress on numerous fronts of global health, vast inequities at the global and national levels persist, and are responsible for millions of deaths annually. We propose a four-part approach to accelerating progress towards fulfilling the right to health: 1) national legal and policy reform, incorporating right to health obligations and principles including equity, participation, and accountability in designing, implementing, and monitoring the health sector, as well as an all-of-government approach in advancing the public’s health; 2) litigation, using creative legal strategies, enhanced training, and promotion of progressive judgments to increase courts’ effectiveness in advancing the right to health; 3) civil society and community engagement, empowering communities to understand and claim this right and building the capacity of right to health organizations; and 4) innovative global governance for health, strengthening World Health Organization leadership on health and human rights, further clarifying the international right to health, ensuring sustained and scalable development assistance, and conforming other international legal regimes (e.g., trade, intellectual property, and finance) to health and human rights norms. We offer specific steps to advance each of these areas, including how a new global health treaty, a Framework Convention on Global Health, could help construct these four pillars.

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A Rights-Based Framework for the SDGs and Beyond: the FCGH

KEY SDG3A Rights-Based Framework for the SDGs and Beyond: A Framework Convention on Global Health

A growing movement is galvanizing around a proposed Framework Convention on Global Health (FCGH) – a global treaty based in human rights and aimed at national and global health equality. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon issued the following call to action in his report in advance of the June 2016 High-Level Meeting on Ending AIDS: “I further encourage the international community to consider and recognize the value of a comprehensive framework convention on global health.”1 It is now time for the international community, from individual states to the Director-General of the World Health Organization – the organization mandated to lead the world on global health, and with the right to health as a core constitutional principle – to answer this call.

The FCGH Vision
All people, wherever they live, ought to be able to easily access comprehensive quality universal health coverage in a health system that does not discriminate, and that equally serves poor and rich. All should be able to readily access other universal needs for good health, such as clean water and nutritious food. The right to health, and the equality, accountability, and participation that are central to it, should be infused throughout the health system and integrated in other sectors and legal regimes, both domestically and internationally.

Filling in gaps in accountability, governance, financing, and human rights, the FCGH would help achieve the health goals and targets of the Sustainable Development Goals, while establishing a rights-based framework for health for the post-SDG era.

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FCGH Statement at 69th World Health Assembly

FCGH WHA Statement
Indira Paharia prepares FCGH Statement, WHA69

Indira Paharia presented this statement to the WHO’s 69th World Health Assembly on 24 May 2016.

Thank you Mr. Chair, honorable ministers, and delegates,

Achieving the health goals in the Sustainable Development Agenda requires acting through the right to health.

The right demands non-discrimination – whether against indigenous populations or refugees and undocumented migrants – without which there can be no universal health coverage. It entails maximal domestic financing efforts towards health and other rights, with genuine international cooperation, the only way to ensure robust universal health coverage for all people, everywhere. The right emphasizes ensuring health services for marginalized populations, with measures from equitable distribution of health services and financing to proactive strategies to ensure their full access, inclusion, and empowerment. The right insists that health is respected in all spheres, such as narcotics and trade, the only way to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals target on medicines for all, and in criminal justice systems, so that they that take domestic violence seriously while recognizing that drug addiction requires a public health and not a criminal response. And the right requires robust, participatory, and independent accountability mechanisms at all levels.

To infuse the right to health through the SDGs, we urge states to seriously consider the proposed Framework Convention on Global Health, which would help secure the SDGs in these ways and more, while advancing sustained individual and global health security and ensuring the prominence of health on the global agenda.

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