The Power of Law in Achieving Health and Well-Being

Law Health JusticeThe power of law in achieving health and well-being

As someone who studied psychology, I am interested in human behaviour and how we can change it to improve society. So, I’d like to give my perspective of why the Framework Convention on Global Health (FCGH) – a legally binding international treaty – has the potential to change people’s behaviours to help us achieve better health and well-being around the world.

Law is an expression of how we want society to be and, with this in mind, can thus be used as a powerful tool to change culture and behaviour. One could see law as the blueprint for society – the architecture of society and the scaffolding around which living society moulds itself. With such frameworks, we can build better societies where everyone can enjoy scientific and social-political advances. To this end, law is an expression of intent – it is a declaration to say that global civilisation has not yet reached its peak and that there is still so much to achieve; laws can provide what we envision as a better future and how we want to reach it. For example, the idea of an international treaty based on the right to health can slowly change people’s understanding of what norms we want to strive for.

That is not to say that laws are stagnant or perfect. Laws should change with the times. In our globalised world, now more than ever, we need stronger expressions of how we want the world to be. Do we want a world where only a minority of people can access the recent breakthroughs in healthcare? Do we want a world where we value profits over people’s health and well-being? Do we want to live in a world where billions of people are left behind while few enjoy the advances that global civilisation has made over the past centuries?

Law has been, and is still currently, used by powerful actors to cause suffering and hardship; such when limiting the affordability of medicines in some instances. But laws that are formulated with the full participation of citizens – that reflect the real needs of citizens – can be a powerful tool used to enable communities to flourish.

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I knew I needed to get involved in the FCGH…

needed to get involved
Join the FCGH Alliance at WHO / WHA May 2018

In May of 2016 as a delegate at the World Health Assembly in Geneva Switzerland, I had the privilege of presenting the Framework Convention on Global Health (FCGH) on behalf of the Platform for an FCGH.

This was my first introduction to the FCGH, and as I read the statement to the ministers and delegates of member states, the words on the paper resonated with me deeply:
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.

From that experience, I knew I needed to get involved in the FCGH and help turn this vision into reality. You can read the full statement here, and I hope you too will consider joining us in ensuring that all people everywhere have access to high quality health care as a basic human right.

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FCGH – Establishing International Benchmarks for Accountability and Justiciability

FCGH – Establishing International Benchmarks for Accountability and Justiciability for the Right to Health

The distinction of Human Rights into two genres, to wit: Primary (‘Fundamental rights’) and Secondary (‘Economic, Social and Cultural {ECOSOC} rights‘), though basically theoretical, assumes a life of its own in jurisdictions where this dichotomy is entrenched as law or in a territory’s constitution. Fundamental Rights refer to such rights as the Right to Life, Freedom of Movement, Freedom of Association and mostly ‘political rights’; whilst ECOSOC rights refer to such rights as the right to education, housing and good environment, amongst others.

In most countries, Primary rights are justiciable (remedies for their violations can be secured through judicial processes); on the converse, Secondary rights are often non-justiciable (States cannot be compelled to provide these rights or ensure their enjoyment).

The right to health is often times classified as Secondary rights, and in some jurisdictions for some health issues, as tertiary. In a number of states, however, the right to Health is rendered non-justiciable. These rights are regarded as rights the state will accord its citizens whensoever the authorities consider their states have sufficient resources to accommodate such.

With the advent of increasingly invasive and modern technologies, the world has fast evolved into a global village where it takes mere hours for the most egregious of health situations to be transmitted and/or replicated from one corner of the globe to the other. It thus becomes imperative, for the health and safety of all wherever, that global minimum standards in accountability and justifiability for health rights be mutually agreed upon and enforced by all members of the international community.

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