It is always spring for human rights. Old ideas embedded in fundamental values do not lose the boundless hope and energy of their birth. In a country that holds its first democratic election or peaceful transition of power, democracy is more than an idea and practice that has existed for centuries, but a new reality worthy of celebration as though a birth in the family, for it may be the new birth of a nation. Human rights are not only principles laid out nearly seven decades ago in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, with roots far deeper, but a constant struggle and promise — today’s cause, today’s hope.
And so it is with the proposed treaty on the right to health, the Framework Convention on Global Health (FCGH), first proposed a decade ago. While we have seen significant improvements in global health in the ensuing years, the needs that it would address – health equity, accountability, participation, national and global governance for health, health financing – remain every bit as pressing today, fundamental to securing health justice and a healthy future. And like a country that has just experienced its first peaceful transition of power to a new government, or people exercising newfound freedoms, the FCGH is experiencing a rebirth.
That rebirth comes with the formation of the Framework Convention on Global Health (FCGH) Alliance on December 10, 2017 – this past Human Rights Day. The FCGH Alliance is a new NGO, formed under the Swiss Civil Code and with its address both in Geneva and in the hopes and commitment of people and organizations throughout the world in the global network that will be the Alliance’s driving force.
I have been an FCGH advocate for years, and seen its growth. As tends to be the case with innovative new ideas, the innovating continues. The vision for the FCGH has evolved. The right to health has moved to its core, and central areas of the treaty have come into focus: addressing the failings of national and global health accountability; persisting health inequities and marginalization, from marginalized communities to marginalized nations; inadequate health financing, with both national budgets and international assistance falling short, and; lack of policy coherence, with different laws and policy directives potentially at odds with the right to health (such as in the area of access to medicines, where patent protections may undermine people’s right to medicines).
Over the past several years, this vision has drawn support from some of the world’s most formidable health advocates, who are proving willing to commit their time (everyone is a volunteer), energy, and passion to the FCGH. They come from all walks of life and regions of the world.
Take just two of the Vice Chairs of the FCGH Alliance, among seven individuals and organizations that will lead the FCGH Alliance in its formative years. One is the Treatment Action Campaign, its significance for South Africa’s struggle against AIDS and for the global AIDS movement analogous to Solidarity’s importance to Poland’s struggle for democracy and the rise of democracy in the era of the fall of the Berlin Wall and end of the Soviet Union. Another is Leslie Ramsammy, for ten years Guyana’s minister of health, during which time he was esteemed by his peers, chosen to be the president of the 61st World Health Assembly (2008). He is already a visionary in his own quest for global health equity, having proposed a 75 X 25 initiative, seeking to raise the life expectancy in every country to at least 75 by the year 2025. He was already thinking of global treaties, proposing one to eliminate child mortality by 2025.
The Alliance’s officers are rounded out by our Chair, Martin Havia, Dean of the Torcuato Di Tella University Law School, Argentina; two more Vice Chairs, Gracia Violeta Ross, Bolivian Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS, and Eze Eluchie, People Against Drug Dependence and Ignorance, Nigeria; Adam Bertscher, who will serve as Secretary, and; Gabriella Sozanski, Coordinator of the Alliance for Health Promotion, serving as Treasurer.
Before this past December 10, a more informal coalition – first the Joint Action and Learning Initiative on National and Global Responsibilities for Health, and more recently the Platform for an FCGH – spearheaded FCGH advocacy. Case Gordon, co-founder of the IMAXI Cooperative – itself a global network advocating for the right to health, and comprised of people with serious diseases and disabilities – was the spark behind the creation of the FCGH Alliance. Nearly two years ago, he recognized that the FCGH had reached a stage where something more than an informal coalition was needed, a presence that could better bring more people and organizations on board, and proposed creating an FCGH NGO
Hence the idea of the FCGH Alliance, a membership NGO. Now it is here. I used to view organizational membership as exclusive, a barrier to engagement – and it can be just that – but I see now how, as I believe it is in our case, it can also be a form of inclusion. For the FCGH Alliance is not a club of the privileged or those who can afford to pay its fees (the Alliance does have fees, but they are low, with waivers available). Rather it is an organization with its door wide open to all who are committed to the FCGH and the precepts of the right to health, seeking to provide a platform and home to those who are in some quarters pushed aside, even hidden, rendered invisible. The FCGH will neither be or be perceived as being controlled in any way by one or several entities – or even the Alliance’s officers or its Executive Committee. Membership will give any individual, and any organization, a voice and vote in the future of the FCGH and the FCGH Alliance. The run-up to and formation of the FCGH Alliance has already significantly widened the group of those actively involved, and I am confident that it will continue to do so. Become a part of the FCGH Alliance yourself, and help bring about the next stage in the further codification and realization of the right to health. For more information, please visit http://www.FCGHAlliance.org. You can also contact the FCGH Alliance through this form. Become a part of this spring for the right to health.
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.