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Law's Power to Safeguard Global Health: LJD Week 2015

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CUBV8OcWEAQI1Z9.jpg-largeThis week several members of the O’Neill Institute attended and participated in the World Bank’s Law, Justice and Development Week program. On Tuesday morning, members of the Institute led a session on “Law’s Power to Safeguard Global Health.” I moderated the session, and was fortunate to be joined by one of the Co-Chairs of The Lancet – O’Neill Institute, Georgetown University Commission on Global Health and the Law, John Monahan, and one of the Commissioners, Alicia Yamin.
During my conversation with John and Alicia, we discussed why the Commission is needed and why the time is ripe for a Commission on Global Health and the Law. We also discussed the “language barriers” and “translation” issues between the fields of law, public health and medicine. We highlighted that one of the goals of the Commission is to empower the conversation between legal, medical and public health experts on the role of law in improving health and how law can be used as a tool to improve health. John and Alicia provided a wealth of examples from their careers – from discussions regarding the H1N1 vaccination to constitutional courts interpreting medical evidence when determining whether the government needed to provide a particular treatment for a patient.
In addition to John, Alicia and my conversation, Dan Hougendobler and Ana Ayala provided concrete case studies on the role of law in improving global health from varying perspectives. Dan provided a technical case study on the Medicines Patent Pool, its development, current functioning, potential future functioning, and recommendations for its application to other areas of global health besides its current use with HIV medicines and recently announced expansion to Tuberculosis and Hepatitis C medicines. Ana Ayala provided an overview of the LL.M. program and how global capacity development in public health law can have a powerful impact for empowering countries and civil society to develop innovative legal solutions to global health challenges.
We were fortunate that we had a very engaged audience who further propelled our discussion on topics such as the Rule of Law, the legal process, and how various countries are determining maximum available resources for their health systems through constitutional mandates. We also discussed BRIC country patents with respect to the Medicines Patent Pool and challenge of harmful laws that disenfranchise populations and drive stigma and marginalization. Overall, the presentation and discussion demonstrated the incredible range of topics that contribute to the conversation of how law can be used to improve global health. It further demonstrated the power (both positive and negative) that law can have on population health. Most importantly, the conversation demonstrated that the work of the Commission is ripe. Now on to Bellagio!

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  • Claudio Schuftan says:

    Is it correct to say that all it takes for the realization of human rights is to improve access to justice and to rights protection in courts of law?
    As a pre-requisite to the reassessment of the access to justice’s role, the HR movement must become aware of the so far limited efficacy of HR litigation mechanisms. Seeing the overall larger picture, HR litigation is only one of the HR instruments –and, at that, one that does not address the structural causes of inequality that impinge on the fulfillment of HR. Only seeing this can the HR movement attain its full emancipatory dimension.
    Moreover, too many courts continue to avoid economic, social and cultural rights (ESCR) as a matter of principle, and many of those who do address them fail to do so in a systematic, doctrinally defensible, or sustainable fashion. (Philip Alston) So, as long as social rights claims are seen as outliers in the dominant paradigm, judicial systems will offer no true equality for those living in poverty and deprivation. To use the HR framework to challenge the unjust power relationships that perpetuate socio-economic inequalities, considerable work remains to be done in developing and strengthening judicial, quasi-judicial and non-judicial accountability mechanisms.
    Well-inspired-left-wing-legal-scholars have overestimated the counter-hegemonic potential of judicializing what are political issues around HR. Even good court rulings can be counterproductive if their effect is to persuade us of the idea that HR are the stuff of expert lawyers and that ordinary citizens should not have much of a say in that process. But applying the HR-based framework comprehensively does not mean leaving legal rights behind. Moving beyond judicialization actually entails asking what HR can do to influence the global economy.

  • The views reflected in this expert column are those of the individual authors and do not necessarily represent those of the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law or Georgetown University. This blog is solely informational in nature, and not intended as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed and retained attorney in your state or country.

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