Values, Policies and Rights

African performance on human rights
Anambo Ongoche E: Pambuzuka News 730, 10 June 2015

Almost two decades after adoption of the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights, the record of adherence to its provisions across the continent is mixed. Some countries have made notable progress, but others show persistent serious violations of human rights. African performance on human rights as spelled out in the Charter varies from one country to another. The author elaborates the situation in different countries on the continent against the rights set out in the Charter. The author concludes that Africa has a long way to go in the practice and upholding of human rights at out in the Charter. He urges that governments be made accountable to ensure that human rights are upheld.

African Union Convention for the Protection and Assistance of Internally Displaced Persons in Africa
African Union: 22 October 2009

This African international agreement has opened the door to a debate on the rights and protection of people displaced by natural disasters, with a nod to migration as a result of climate change. The African Union Convention for the Protection and Assistance of Internally Displaced Persons in Africa, also known as the Kampala Convention, is a ground-breaking treaty adopted by the African Union (AU) that promises to protect and assist millions of Africans displaced within their own countries. Significantly, the treaty recognises natural disasters as well as conflict and generalised violence as key factors in uprooting people. In Africa, more people are likely to be displaced as the continent experiences more frequent droughts and floods brought about by climate change. The inclusion of displacement by natural disasters was informed by the global debate on the need to develop a framework for the rights of ‘climate refugees’ – people uprooted from their homes and crossing international borders – because the changing climate threatened their survival. The treaty also calls on governments to set up laws and find solutions to prevent displacement caused by natural disasters, with compensation for those who were displaced.

African Union model law on medical products regulation
African Union Heads of State: African Union, Addis Ababa, 2015

Member States of the African Union endorsed in 2015 the milestones for the establishment of a single medicines regulatory agency in Africa within the context of the African Medicines Regulatory Harmonization programme. Concerned that the proliferation of Substandard/Spurious/Falsified/Falsely- labelled/Counterfeit medical products on the continent poses a major public health threat and noting that regulatory systems of many African countries remain inadequate the states called for legislation relating to medical products through Regional Economic Communities and the African Union to ensure access to medical products that are safe, efficacious, and of assured quality to the African population. They called for the adoption and domestication of a model law on medical products regulation in Africa for the creation of a harmonized regulatory environment on the continent; and adopted the African Union Model Law on Medical Products Regulation.

Africans’ DNA could be abused
Jordan B: The Times, 14 February 2009

South African researchers and traditional leaders are reported to have raised concern that scientists could patent the genes of local ethnic groups who have donated blood samples as part of a worldwide genome-mapping project. Several lawyers, researchers and community leaders have denounced an American patent application for unique gene mutations found in DNA samples collected in Tanzania, Kenya and Sudan. The applicants from the University of Pennsylvania, are reported to have collected more than 2,000 samples in East Africa and to have a blood bank of more than 5,000 samples in total, taken from 80 African ethnic groups.

After Habitat III: a stronger urban future must be based on the right to the city
Colau A: The Guardian, October 2016

Innovative and agile cities are better placed to solve major global challenges than national governments – in thrall to the momentum of the last century – but the fight must start now, argues Barcelona’s first female mayor. Colau argues that all the major global challenges – climate change, the economy, inequality, the very future of democracy – will be solved in cities. If nations want to succeed with their policies, cities must be counted as serious actors on the global stage. She argues that national governments are hostages to the momentum of the previous century – but that’s not the real world any more. We live in a world that functions by networking, by faster and more agile contact between cities. Colau notes that it is not possible to talk about a just, sustainable, equitable or inclusive city without speaking about the right to the city - a model of urban development that includes all citizens. She argues that the reference to it in the UN’s New Urban Agenda document ratified at Habitat III in Quito this week could be more ambitious. However it is necessary to recognise the problems overcome just to get this far. She comments that some global powers such as the United States and China resisted it completely; they didn’t want the right to the city in the declaration at all. Thanks to popular mobilisation in Latin America and in some European countries, this political movement has won its place on the agenda – and she notes it as a significant achievement. For the right to the city to become real, however, needs action to transform it into concrete policies and regulations. Colau notes that the most important tests will come after the summit finishes – when we find out whether all these statements can translate into commitments that create positive solutions for urban citizens.

Aid, resistance and queer power
Abbas H: Pambazuka News 580, 5 April 2012

Increased persecution of homosexuals in Africa has drawn the attention of international funders recently. Western external funders are reported by the author to be considering making aid to African countries conditional on decriminalising homosexuality and upholding the rights of homosexual communities. While intended to show support for an otherwise vulnerable minority, the author suggests that withholding aid would have adverse effects on all Africans, including homosexual Africans. Threatening to withdraw foreign aid, it is argued, only reinforces the argument that homosexuality is a Western construct and would result in a local backlash. Further aid itself cannot be a tool for social justice given its roots in imequitable power relations. In contrast the author calls for an emerging movement that seeks to locate gender and sexuality, including that of homosexual people, within the broad spectrum of social and economic issues that affect all Africans.

AIDS activists outraged by Kenyan minister’s proposal to 'lock up' HIV-positive people
Plus News: 31 January 2011

Kenyan AIDS activists are demanding a full apology from a Kenyan cabinet minister who recently suggested that isolating HIV-positive people may be the way to eradicate the pandemic. At a 28 January 2011 meeting with members of parliament on HIV and AIDS, Esther Murugi, Minister for Special Programmes, put forward the option of permanently ‘locking up’ positive people to keep them out of general society. Kenya's National AIDS Control Council falls under the Ministry of Special Programmes. Nelson Otwoma, coordinator of the Network of People living with HIV/AIDS in Kenya, said her comments were highly irresponsible and only contributed to stigma surrounding the disease. She believed that the minister’s comments could prompt a wave of hatred against HIV positive people among ‘people who might hold a view like hers and who were simply waiting for a trigger’. Jacqueline Sewe, a member of local NGO, Women Fighting AIDS in Kenya (WOFAK), has called on the minister to either publicly apologise to people living with HIV or resign, highlighting the fact that HIV is not a contagious disease.

AIDS in Uganda: the human-rights dimension
The Lancet 2005; 365:2075-2076

"It is time to shift the debate over HIV prevention in Uganda. Rather than focusing on the precise combination of A, B, and C that contributed to the country's HIV decline, researchers should condemn censorship of life-saving HIV/AIDS information and discrimination against vulnerable populations such as lesbians and gays. It is bad enough that the USA is exporting ignorance and prejudice to countries already devastated by HIV. Researchers should not ignore these human-rights violations by focusing on the wrong issue." (requires registration)

AIDS Law Project relaunches with broader focus
Kerry Cullinan: Health-e News, 11 May 2010

The AIDS Law Project, one of South Africa's leading HIV and AIDS rights campaigners, has ceased to exist in its present form. Instead it has become part of Section27, a non-profit organisation that will focus on all 'the socio-economic conditions that undermine human dignity and development, prevent poor people from reaching their full potential and lead to the spread of diseases that have a disproportionate impact on the vulnerable and marginalised'. Section27 gets its name from the section in the country’s Constitution that states everyone has the right to access to health care services, enough food and water and social security. The organisation faces a potential legal battle over the right to use the name, Section27, as the Companies and Intellectual Properties Registration Organisation (CIPRO) claims that this name is the preserve of government only. Director Mark Heywood explained the change: 'To sustain the response to HIV, reduce new infections and ensure sustained access to treatment, it is necessary to campaign for equity, equality and quality in the health system.' Head of litigation services Adila Hassan said the new organisation will still focus on HIV/AIDS but also on the 'underlying determinants of health, and to do this we will be focusing on education and sufficient food as two such determinants'. Section27 will also defend the Constitution and its foundational values.

Alcohol harm: Beyond the body to the body politic
González R: MEDICC Review 12(4):30-33, October 2010

In light of the World Health Organization's declaration that non-dependent drinking contributes more to the global burden of alcohol-related disease than does drinking by those who meet diagnostic criteria for dependence, this article argues that clinicians, researchers and decision-makers need to consider microsocial and macrosocial impacts of alcohol use, not just addiction and clinical effects on individuals meeting diagnostic criteria at the extreme high end of the alcohol-use spectrum. It suggests some qualitative dimensions to further define social or low-risk drinking and proposes that all drinking beyond that be described as harmful, because of its impacts on personal, community and population health.