On 10 December 2018, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), jointly with the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law, and with the support from the Government of Canada, celebrated the International Human Rights Day.
The event focused on several topics concerning the right to health, which included discussions on the enforcement of the right to health from a universal and inter-american system perspective, understandings of the right to health from diverse perspectives, justiciability of social rights and the balance of power, and experiences related to the right to health in Brazil, El Salvador, Guatemala and Costa Rica.
During the welcome and opening remarks, Heidi V. Jiménez (PAHO) and H.E. Jennifer May Loten, Ambassador of the Permanent Mission of Canada to the Organization of the American States highlighted the relevance of commemorating the 70th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on this International Human Rights Day and the significance of recognizing the right to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health.
The first panel featured the participation of Christian Courtis from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Silvia Serrano from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and Renato Zerbini Ribeiro Leao, Member of the United Nations’ Committe on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. This panel was moderated by Alejandro Morlachetti from the Office of the Legal Counsel at PAHO.
The second panel focused on different perspectives of the right to health and counted with the participation of Varun Gauri from the World Bank and Oscar Cabrera, from the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law.
After the lunch break, the third panel included a discussion on the justiciability of social rights and the balance of power between the executive, legislative and judicial branches. The panel featured the participation of Luis Gallo Cantera, Member of the House of Representatives of Uruguay; Gloria Stella Ortiz Delgado, Member of the Constitutional Court of Colombia; and Eric Ulloa, Vice Minister of Health of the Republic of Panama.
The last panel focused on comparative experiences related to the right to health in national courts hosted a discussion between Gabriel Menna Barreto Von Gehlen, Federal Judge from Porto Alegre, Brazil; Sydney Blanco, Former Member of the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court of El Salvador; Gloria Patricia Porras, Member of the Constitutional Court of Guatemala; and Fernando Castillo Viquez, Member of the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court of Costa Rica.
The event concluded with a plenary discussion on the role of courts in advancing the right to health. The meeting brought together key international experts and other stakeholders at the regional level to discuss the role of national courts in fulfilling the right to health. In particular, the discussion focused on the compatibility of democracy and the validity of economic and social rights, the impact of the adjudication of economic and social rights and the use of legal litigation to enforce economic and social rights, in particular the right to health and health-related rights.
Photo courtesy of Laura Norato Prieto