VALUES, POLICIES AND RIGHTS
NEW AVENUE FOR LITIGATING THE RIGHT TO HEALTH: OPTIONAL PROTOCOL TO THE ICESCR COMES INTO FORCE
Cabrera OA Friedman E And HonermannB: O’Neill Institute, February 2013
On 5 February, 2013, Uruguay became the tenth country to ratify the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), which means the Optional Protocol will come into force on 5 May, 2013. Until now, the CESCR has been limited to issuing concluding observations and recommendations to member countries as part of semi-regular country reporting requirements in the ICESCR and to issuing broad general comments on rights under the Convention. The opportunity will now exist at the global level to litigate and begin to develop more concrete standards around the rights in the ICESCR – including the right to of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health (Article 12 of the ICESCR). The authors of this paper highlight emerging opportunities within the framework of the ICESCR and the Optional Protocol to begin serious investigations into the social determinants of health, such as access to sufficient food, water, sanitation, and education. They call for an approach that goes beyond the typical and narrower construction of the right to health based in access to health care services to include the determinants discussed in Article 12.
HOW DO NATIONAL STRATEGIC PLANS FOR HIV AND AIDS IN SOUTHERN AND EASTERN AFRICA ADDRESS GENDER-BASED VIOLENCE? A WOMEN’S RIGHTS PERSPECTIVE
Gibbs A, Mushinga M, Crone ET, Willan S And Mannell J: Health And Human Rights 14(2), 2012
Gender-based violence (GBV) is a significant human rights violation and a key driver of the HIV epidemic in southern and eastern Africa. In this study, the authors frame GBV from a broad human rights approach that includes intimate partner violence and structural violence. They use this broader definition to review how National Strategic Plans for HIV and AIDS (NSPs) in southern and eastern Africa address GBV. NSPs for HIV and AIDS provide the national-level framework that shapes government, business, external funder, and non-governmental responses to HIV within a country. They authors’ review suggests that attention to GBV is poorly integrated, and few recognise GBV and programme around GBV. The programming, policies and interventions that do exist privilege responses that support survivors of violence, rather than seeking to prevent it. Furthermore, the subject who is targeted is narrowly constructed as a heterosexual woman in a monogamous relationship. There is little consideration of GBV targeting women who have non-conforming sexual or gender identities, or of the need to tackle structural violence in the response to HIV and AIDS.
INTEGRATING INTERVENTIONS ON MATERNAL MORTALITY AND MORBIDITY AND HIV: A HUMAN RIGHTS-BASED FRAMEWORK AND APPROACH
Fried S, Harrison B, Starcevich K, Whitaker C And O’Konek T: Health And Human Rights 14(2), 2012
In sub-Saharan Africa, HIV and maternal mortality and morbidity (MMM) are connected in both outcomes and solutions: HIV is the leading cause of maternal death, while prevention of unintended pregnancy and access to contraception are considered two of the most important HIV-related prevention efforts. Both are central to reducing unsafe abortion, another leading cause of maternal death in Africa. A human rights-based framework helps to identify shared structural drivers include gender inequality; gender-based violence (including sexual violence); economic disempowerment; and stigma and discrimination in access to services or opportunities based on gender and HIV. Therefore the authors call for a human rights-based and integrated response to the two health issues. Governments should establish the health-related human rights standards to which all women are entitled and provide remedy for human rights violations related to HIV and maternal mortality and morbidity. No single goal, such as those addressing HIV and MMM, can be achieved without progress on all development goals.
UNIVERSAL HEALTH COVERAGE SHOULD BE ANCHORED IN THE RIGHT TO HEALTH
Ooms G, Brolan C, Eggermont N, Eide A, Flores W, Forman L Et Al: Bulletin Of The World Health Organisation 91(1): 2-2A, January 2013
In this article, the authors propose that the right to health and its imperative of narrowing health inequities should be central to the post-2015 international health agenda. However, they argue that universal health coverage - as defined by the World health Organisation and typically conceived - is not enough to ensure the right to health. Policy-makers will need to address the social determinants of health such as safe drinking water and good sanitation, adequate nutrition and housing, safe and healthy occupational and environmental conditions and gender equality. The post-2015 health agenda should also explicitly describe the accountability mechanisms that will make it possible for people to claim – not beg for – additional national public resources and international assistance, if needed. Furthermore, it must specify how citizens will participate in the decision-making processes surrounding their health services and their physical and social environment. Participation must be genuine and built on a continuing relationship among researchers, governments and those communities, otherwise goals may end up being formulated by policy elites after token and superficial consultations, undermining the rights of the very communities they serve.
MENTAL HEALTH IN GHANA: A RIGHTS VIOLATION IN ACTION
Asokan I: Consultancy Africa Intelligence, 24 January 2013
This report argues that Ghana is reported to be violating the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights when people with mental disorders are subjected to prayer camps that advocate complete isolation, being chained to trees, and forced exorcism for demonic possession, and fails to provide services for mentally illness. The author suggests that mental health problems often stem from poor nutrition, depressed socioeconomic status, and elevated, persistent violence. Despite the widespread presence of these factors mental heath problems like depression or undiagnosed schizophrenia are often ignored in health policy agendas in Africa. The author proposes that mental health be recognised as a human right, coupled with de-stigmatisation of mental health disorders, and resource allocation for treatment.
INTERIM REPORT OF THE SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR ON THE RIGHT OF EVERYONE TO THE ENJOYMENT OF THE HIGHEST ATTAINABLE STANDARD OF PHYSICAL AND MENTAL HEALTH
United Nations Special Rapporteur On The Right Of Everyone To The Enjoyment Of The Highest Attainable Standard Of Physical And Mental Health: 3 August 2011
In this report, the Special Rapporteur considers criminal laws and other legal restrictions relating to sexual and reproductive health and the right to health. These include criminal and other legal restrictions on: abortion; conduct during pregnancy; contraception and family planning; and the provision of sexual and reproductive education and information. These restrictions violate the right to health by restricting peoples’ access to quality goods, services and information, as well as violating their right to make their own decisions about their bodies. Moreover, the application of such laws as a means to achieving certain public health outcomes is often ineffective and disproportionate, according to the report. In cases where a barrier is created by a criminal law or other legal restriction, it is the obligation of the State to remove it. In response to countries that are calling for the progressive realisation of the right to health, the Rapporteur argues that the removal of such laws and legal restrictions is not subject to resource constraints; therefore he calls for the immediate scrapping of laws and policies undermining sexual and reproductive health to ensure everyone can enjoy full realisation of their right to health.
AFRICA YOUTH DECLARATION ON POST-2015 AGENDA
Delegates At The African Youth Conference: 4 January 2012
The African Youth Conference on Post-2015 Development Agenda, held in Nairobi, Kenya, from 12-16 December 2012, has adopted a Youth Declaration on the Post-2015 Agenda. This Agenda identifies 13 actions for accelerating progress on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and makes recommendations for the post-2015 development agenda. On accelerating MDG progress, the Declaration recommends that governments: increase commitments to achieve the MDGs and honour pledges; strengthen institutions to fight corruption and empower youth; and provide sufficient resources to children, women and youth ministries. It also recommends, inter alia: increasing equitable access to sustainable water and sanitation services and promoting hygienic behaviour; planning and implementing poverty eradication programmes to reach youth; strengthening communication, data collection and monitoring; and empowering and mobilising youth to participate in the MDGs and hold governments accountable. The Declaration asks the UN and its development partners to support projects that mitigate climate change and encourage sustainable consumption. It calls for civil society to engage communities to understand the causes of poverty and to address these challenges.
FINANCIAL REGULATION, HUMAN RIGHTS AND SUSTAINABILITY
CIVICUS: December 2012
How can an integrated and inclusive approach of human rights and sustainable development be applied to financial regulation? CIVICUS argues that it will have to begin by giving the financial sector a role that is subservient to the ‘real’ economy, a real economy that in turn should support ecological sustainability and human rights and not a ‘paper’ economy based on futures trading. It points out that the recent financial crisis shows that market self-regulation does not work, calling for government intervention and regulation. CIVICUS makes three major proposals. First, given that markets in natural resources offer a field to expand paper profits while worsening equity in access to resources and conservation, CIVICUS call for new economic benchmarks and note that the Gross Domestic Product-based (GDP) is not an accurate benchmark of progress. Second, financing should be provided for sustainable modes of production, often small scale endeavours. Third, financial regulation should incentivise investment in production activities vs the paper economy.
CONSTITUTIONAL COURT VICTORY OVER PRISON TB INFECTION
South African Broadcasting Corporation: Wednesday 12 December 2012
In a landmark case, South Africa’s Constitutional Court ruled on 10 December 2012 in favour of a claimant who contracted tuberculosis (TB) during a stint in Pollsmoor Prison, Cape Town. The Constitutional Court decided that prison authorities had failed to implement adequate TB prevention measures among inmates, arguing that there was a causal link between this and the spread of TB. Section 27, a health rights group, has meanwhile warned prison authorities against neglecting TB prevention in prisons. Crowded cells in the prison leading to the spread of TB are argued to be a violation of prisoners’ right to health.
FILLING THE GAP: A LEARNING NETWORK FOR HEALTH AND HUMAN RIGHTS IN THE WESTERN CAPE, SOUTH AFRICA
London L, Fick N, Tram KH And Stuttaford M: Health And Human Rights 14(1): 1-18, June 2012
The authors of this paper draw on the experiences of a Learning Network for Health and Human Rights (LN) involving collaboration between academic institutions and civil society organisations in the Western Cape, South Africa. The LN’s work in materials development, participatory research, training and capacity-building for action, and advocacy for intervention illustrates important lessons for human rights practice, they argue. These include: actively translating knowledge and awareness into action to make rights real; civil society’s role in holding services accountable in terms of the right to health; the need for civil society to promote rights in general; and the critical importance of networking and solidarity for building civil society capacity to act for health rights. Civil society can play a key role in bridging a gap between formal state commitment to creating a human rights culture and realising services and policies that enable the most vulnerable members of society to advance their health. Rights violations can be redressed through access to information and the creation of safe, participatory spaces. Civil society agency is critical to such action.