May 5, 2023

From April 17-19, the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law hosted an academic visit at Georgetown University Law Center on realizing the right to health and the role of regional human rights commissions.

Co-organized by the Dullah Omar Institute of the University of the Western Cape, the Kenya Legal & Ethical Issues Network on HIV and AIDS (KELIN), and the O’Neill Institute’s Global Center for Legal Innovation on Food Environments (Global Center), the visit brought together Honorable Commissioner Janet Ramatoulie Sallah-Njie, the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Women in Africa; Honorable Commissioner Mudford Zachariah Mwandenga, the Chairperson for the Working Group on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ECOSOC) from the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights; and Honorable Commissioner Julissa Mantilla Falcón, the Special Rapporteur for the Rights of Women from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

While both the African and the Inter-American Commissions have already started engaging with and establishing norms and standards for ensuring the realization of the right to health and other related rights, this meeting sought to further foster partnerships between the two regional human rights bodies, as well as with academia and Civil Society Organizations (CSOs). This visit further facilitated the realization of fundamental socio-economic rights, especially the right to health including, non-communicable diseases and sexual reproductive health.

In the spirit of promoting collaboration and south-to-south learning, the academic visit provided an opportunity for knowledge exchange between the two Commissions, the Dullah Omar Institute, KELIN, and the Global Center, and for students and staff to engage with the Commissioners and gain insight into how their Commissions fulfill their mandates, and the role of academia and CSOs in supporting their work.

The Commissioners, their technical staff, civil society representatives, and the broader Georgetown University Law Center community engaged in discussions on topical issues relating to the right to health and the rights of women. They shared experiences and discussed possible collaborations, strategies, and programs for developing norms and standards related to the realization of the right to health at the regional level and ensuring implementation at the national level.

The visit highlighted similarities between the challenges faced by the Commissions in their respective regions and underscored the critical role of human rights commissions in the realization of the right to health. It also highlighted opportunities for strengthening existing collaborations and knowledge exchange, as well as for establishing new ones among all stakeholders to ensure that the right to health is upheld at the regional and national levels.

Following this meeting, the Special Rapporteurs on the Rights of Women in Africa and the Americas, respectively, and the Chairperson of the ECOSOC Working Group of the African Commission will explore possible avenues of partnership with the Global Center, the wider O’Neill Institute, the Dullah Omar Institute, KELIN, as well as with the Leadership and Advocacy for Women in Africa (LAWA) Fellowship Program of the Georgetown Law Center.