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New Research Tool for Health and Human Rights Advocates Formally Launched to the Public

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On October 24, 2013, the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law at Georgetown University and the Lawyers Collective formally launched the Global Health and Human Rights Database. This long-awaited database provides users with free online access to law from around the world on health and human rights, offering an interactive, searchable, and fully indexed website of case law, national constitutions and international instruments.

The launch was formalized with a celebratory event held at UN Headquarters during the 68th session of the UN General Assembly, that brought together speakers working across a number of sectors. The event featured opening remarks by United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health and Lawyers Collective Project Director Anand Grover and two panels—one on the development of the database and the other of the potential application of the database across sectors.

The first panel outlined the gaps that existed in the field that led both institutions to develop the database, the challenges faced in engaging in this endeavor, the research methodologies adopted, and the visions held by each of the institutions in bringing this database into fruition. The panel was introduced and moderated by Benjamin Mason Meier (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill). The speakers were Ana Ayala (O’Neill Institute), Brian Citro (University of Chicago Law School and formerly with the Lawyers Collective), and Suzanne Zhou (Lawyers Collective).

The second panel explored the ways in which the database could contribute to those working in the area of health and human rights, whether they be litigants, activists, academics, or students. The panel was introduced and moderated by Jonathan Cohen (Open Society Foundations) and was composed of three other speakers: Joseph Amon (Human Rights Watch), Terry McGovern (Columbia University), and Nadia Rasheed (United Nations Development Program (UNDP)).

Important questions were raised regarding the database’s potential to address the needs by the global health and human rights community, including the implementation of litigation and the database’s future ability to translate judgments into a number of languages. The conversation also highlighted the database’s capacity to provide users the ability to compare and contrast arguments across jurisdictions to improve litigation and advocacy strategies.

The database was developed in collaboration with a worldwide network of partners—including NGOs, academics and private researchers—and welcomes potential new partnerships to the project. It also encourages users to submit information on cases, international and regional instruments, and national constitutions currently not contained in the database, as wells as feedback on the functionality and features of the database.




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