Values, Policies and Rights

WHO submission to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights

"In recent years, WHO has strengthened its work on health and human rights. In 2005-2006, WHO is focusing on the process of developing an organization-wide health and human rights strategy, which will serve as a policy platform for WHO and ensure that human rights become further "institutionalized" in our everyday work. WHO is actively working to increase awareness and understanding of the scope, content and application of the right to health (shorthand for "the right to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health"). Training for WHO staff on health and human rights was initiated in 2002 and has continued in 2003 and 2004. Recently, consultations on health and human rights took place between WHO headquarters, regional and country offices."

WHO, FCTC disputes burley claims as Malawi gets case study status
Malawi Today: 2 February 2012

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has denied claims that partial guidelines for the implementation of Articles 9 and 10 of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) on Regulation of the contents of tobacco products and tobacco product disclosures will have a negative effect on burley tobacco producers. The International Tobacco Growers Association (ITGA), has fought against the adoption of the guidelines, arguing that reducing the demand for burley tobacco could shrink economies, employment and incomes, such as in Malawi where tobacco contributes about 13% to the Malawi economy and accounts for 60% of foreign currency earnings. [Contrary to tobacco industry claims, the guidelines do not recommend a ban on burley tobacco or any other type of tobacco but do regulate flavourings that would attract target grioups such as young people to smoke. Cigarettes containing burley continue to be sold in jurisdictions where strong restrictions on flavourings are in place].

Whose rights count?

Enthusiasm for “rights-based approaches” to development has grown during the past decade. Rights now have diverse meanings within the policies and actions of development agencies, governments and civil society organisations. This “rise of rights” has sparked critical reflection about the origins of rights-based approaches to development and what they mean in policy and practice. One of the key concerns, as with all development fashions, is “what is really different this time?” Can this emerging focus on rights help to bring about real changes in favour of poor and marginalised people? How do we know that “rights-based development” is not just putting new labels on old wine? This is the issue explored by the 'IDS Bulletin' from the Institute of Development Studies.

Why Human Health and Health Ethics Must Be Central to Climate Change Deliberations
Singh JA: Plos Med (9) 6: June 2012

The 17th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention on Climate Change (COP 17) that concluded in December 2011, in Durban, South Africa produced the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action that commits governments to developing a protocol, legal instrument, or an agreed outcome to cut greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions with legal force applicable to all countries by no later than 2015. Foreign ministers and environmental ministers set and drove the conference agenda, and economic considerations underpinned all discussions. Despite climate change posing grave risks to human health, the human health perspective on climate change was relegated to side-event, although it led to a parallel inaugural Global Climate and Health Summit, and the Durban Declaration on Climate and Health and Health Sector Call to Action. The report argues that the marginalisation of human health considerations at UN Fframework Convention on Climate Change conferences is untenable and that human health must be a core, not peripheral, focus at future meetings. The report states that the health community, led by health ministers, must play a central role in climate change deliberations and that health ethics principles must be afforded equal status to economics principles in climate change deliberations.

Why, when and how men rape: Understanding rape perpetration in South Africa
Jewkes R, Sikweyiya Y, Morrell R and Dunkle K: South African Crime Quarterly 34: 23-31, December 2010

This article reports the findings of research conducted with a randomly selected sample of men aged 18–49 years from the general population of the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal, who were asked in an anonymously conducted survey about their rape perpetration practices, motivations, and consequences thereof. Overall 27.6% of men had forced a woman to have sex with them against her will, whether an intimate partner, stranger or acquaintance. Some perpetrated alone, others with accomplices. Most men who had raped had done so more than once, started as teenagers, and often had different types of victims. Asked about motivations, men indicated that rape most commonly stemmed from a sense of sexual entitlement, and it was often an act of bored men (alone or in groups) seeking entertainment. Rape was often also a punishment directed against girlfriends and other women, and alcohol was often part of the context. A third of men had experienced no consequences from their acts, not even feelings of guilt. More commonly there was remorse and worry about consequences, and in a third of cases there had been action against them from their family, that of the victims, or respected community members, and about one in five had been arrested for rape. This research confirms that rape is prevalent in South Africa, with only a small proportion of incidents reported to the police. Many of the roots of the problem lie in an accentuated gender hierarchy. This highlights the importance of interventions and policies that start in childhood and seek to change the way in which boys are socialised into men, building ideas of gender equity and respect for women.

WIDE launches Gender Justice Beyond the MDG Campaign
WIDE: September 2010

In preparation for the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) Summit, held from 20-22 September 2010, in New York, Women in Development Europe (WIDE) launched the new campaign ‘Mobilising for Gender Justice Beyond the MDGs’ to advance gender and social justice for all. WIDE’s view on the MDGs framework is that it offers too narrow and minimalist a focus for measuring development or the advancement of gender equality and women´s rights. WIDE considers that the MDGs’ shortcoming is that the indicators exclude the structural nature of poverty as well as the structural nature of gender inequality. WIDE is inviting participation in the ‘Gender Justice Beyond the MDG Campaign’ to share analysis, opinions, activities and proposals, news, processes, expectations and outcomes of the summit.

Will the struggle for health equity and social justice be best served by a Framework Convention on Global Health?
Haynes L, Legge D, London L, McCoy D, Sanders D and Schuftan C: Health and Human Rights 15(1): 111-116, June 2013

The idea of a Framework Convention for Global Health (FCGH), using the treaty-making powers of the World Health Organisation (WHO), has been promoted as an opportunity to advance global health equity and the right to health. The idea has promise, but the authors argue that it needs more thought regarding risks, obstacles, and strategies. The reform of global health governance must be based on a robust analysis of the political economy, drivers of inequality and the denial of the right to health arise. The authors warn against limiting analysis to questions of inter-governmental financial transfers because of the risk of neglecting the underlying structural determinants of health injustice, which would help to legitimise an unjust and unsustainable global economic regime. While a FCGH can alert to areas for global regulation, the authors call for popular mobilisation around the right to health in ways that link to the local priorities of different communities.

Women and the Right to Food: International Law and State Practice
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 2008

In the light of Millennium Development Goals No.1 – to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger – and No.3 – to promote gender equality and empower women – the present study provides a cross-cutting analysis of the right to food from a gender perspective, examining relevant international instruments as well as State practice. The analysis of these documents will give an idea of what is today’s level of awareness of women’s right to food and related issues, how much is covered by law and how much is missing.

Women maimed by landmines need to be heard by United Nations
Piloya M: WeNews, 28 November 2010

Government officials, representatives of United Nations agencies and members of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines met from 29 November to 3 December 2010 in Geneva to discuss their efforts and plans to implement the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty. This article is a call to stakeholders at the meeting to address the barriers facing women with disabilities, and to take a participatory approach to policy making that will include the opinions of these women and their self-defined needs. According to the author, a Ugandan activist, women with disabilities have been left out of the agenda to ban landmines over the past decade, in the same way they have been left out of development programmes and shunned in their own communities. Challenges faced by women with disabilities include social isolation, being ignored by relief and recovery efforts and suffering sexual violence. Abuse and abandonment are common, and a lack of access to health care, education and employment opportunities are the reality for most. Unless policymakers take the needs of disabled women into account, the author concludes, these women cannot share fully in the benefits of any new programmes, including employment and health rehabilitation programmes.

Women take legal action over alleged sterilisations in Namibia
PlusNews: 25 June 2009

Two HIV-positive Namibian women who allege they were sterilised against their will in public hospitals are seeking redress through the courts, the first of more than 20 known cases, according to the International Community for Women Living with HIV/AIDS (ICW). The ICW raised the alarm over what it terms forced or coerced sterilisations among HIV-positive women more than a year ago, after hearing accounts of it through its regular forums for HIV-positive young women. Another six cases could potentially go to trial this year, and a further 20 are being looked into by the ICW. However, legal action has been hampered by difficulties in collecting evidence and statements from women involved, who are often reluctant to come forward due to fears that both their HIV status and their inability to bear children will be made public. The ICW believes informed consent was not sought, as the majority of these women are rural or illiterate.