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70 Years of Human Rights in Global Health: Drawing on a Contentious Past to Secure a Hopeful Future

As the world marks the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), a team of distinguished global health experts including the World Health Organization’s Director General, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, and Georgetown University’s Lawrence Gostin, warn that “rising challenges are placing at risk hard-won gains for human rights in global health.”

In “Seventy Years of Human Rights in Global Health: Drawing on a Contentious Past to Secure a Hopeful Future,” will be published Dec. 9 in the journal The Lancet, Tedros, Gostin and colleagues trace the evolution of human rights in global health and identify current threats.

“The UDHRs changed the world, giving people the power to claim their rights to health and to dignity,” says Gostin, faculty director of the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law at Georgetown.

However, financial constraints and global threats such as climate change and mass migration pose great risk to human health rights, writes a team, which also includes Benjamin Mason Meier of University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; and Rebekah Thomas, LLB, and Veronica Magar, of WHO’s Gender, Equity and Human Rights Team.

“Every human being has a right to clean water, unpolluted air, nutritious food, and healthcare,” says Gostin. “Yet, punitive and discriminatory policies place hard-won rights in jeopardy. Governments often deny human rights to marginalized populations, such as migrants, racial minorities, gay and lesbian people, and the poor. Basic freedoms are under attack, such as the media and civil society organizations.”

Read the article in the Lancet (Dec 9th) and the press release.


Watch Professor Gostin on the inextricable linkage between public health and human rights

Human Rights in Global Health: Rights-Based Governance for a Globalizing World

This blog series, by O’Neill Institute Scholar Benjamin Mason Meier, Associate Professor of Global Health Policy at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, seeks to frame the implementation of human rights law through global health governance, with contributors exploring institutional approaches to mainstreaming human rights in global health.