This article poses questions about what will be achieved at Rio+20. The author argues that all global environmental problems—from climate change to hazardous waste—have separate agreements. International rules of engagement and cooperation are being discussed in parallel processes and institutions. Rio+20 has raised the green economy rather than 1992’s concept of sustainable development, but without clarifying what this is. Does it mean the world will invest in technologies to green the current economy? Or will it seriously reinvent growth so that it is not driven by cheap consumption that is costing us the earth?
Values, Policies and Rights
This article is concerned with the lack of integrated healthcare services for expectant mothers in developing nations. For example, mothers-to-be have may have to visit up to five different healthcare providers for services that could be provided by one clinic. The article identifies the need for women to take control of their own bodies and for their choices to be respected as the main issue facing maternal health in the world's poorest countries. Women should be able to decide when to have children, how often to have children and if they want children at all. The article also argues for empowering young women to pursue whatever life they choose for themselves, noting that a woman should be more than just a ‘baby factory’ but should also be able to pursue a career and other options. Reducing maternal mortality requires the unmet needs for family planning and reproductive health to be addressed alongside the other unmet needs of pregnant women. The article expresses disappointment that, at the 2010 Women Deliver Conference, held from 7–9 June 2010 in the United States, there was little talk of the millions of vulnerable and marginalised adolescent girls who are failing to access reproductive and maternal services. Whether this inequality is to be addressed or entrenched was apparently unclear from the Conference’s discussions.
A landmark ruling on 12 October 2012 by Gaborone's High Court found that gender discrimination based on Botswana's customary law is unconstitutional. The court ruled on a case brought by three sisters, all over 65 years old, challenging a Ngwaketse customary law that holds the right of inheritance to the family home belongs to the youngest son. Critically, the judge made it clear that discrimination cannot be justified on cultural grounds before rejecting out of hand the argument put forward by the Attorney General that Botswana society was not ready for gender equality, said the Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC), which supported the sisters' case.
The Botswana government has passed an amendment to its Employment Act that will bring an end to dismissal based on an individual's sexual orientation or HIV status, but rights groups believe the legislation needs to go further. Civil society organizations in Botswana welcomed the move but said legislation to protect the rights of people living with HIV in the workplace was necessary. The Botswana Network on Ethics, Law and HIV/AIDS (BONELA) noted that ‘tolerance and acceptance of sexual minorities will ensure universal access to prevention, treatment, care and support - crucial for Botswana to achieve its ... goal of zero new HIV infections by 2016’. Gadzani Mhotsha, Secretary General of the Botswana Federation of Trade Unions (BFTU) warned that the legislation was not comprehensive enough in dealing with the serious issues of HIV at the workplace and called for comprehensive legislation, not piecemeal amendments. BONELA also added that a specific HIV Employment Act should be passed that attends to matters of reasonable accommodation for those who are HIV-positive, ensuring they have a safe and supportive environment to access treatment, care and support. Civil society has also called on the government to enact laws prohibiting private sector employers from testing potential employees for HIV and subsequently disqualifying them on the basis of an HIV-positive status.
With the development community, governments, policymakers, researchers and international organisations hard at work on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), this report analyses the background of identifying development goals.
This article explores the relationship between public health and human rights using as an example the Brazilian policy on free and universal access to antiretroviral medicines for people living with HIV/AIDS. The Brazilian response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic, which arose from initiatives in both civil society and the governmental sector, followed the process of the democratization of the country. If the Brazilian experience may not be easily transferred to other realities, the model of the Brazilian response may nonetheless serve as an inspiration to finding appropriate and life-saving solutions in other national contexts. (abstract only)
Breaking the Rules 2014 (BTR) is a 237-page monitoring report which describes evidence of 813 Code violations, from 81 countries, collected between Jan 2011 and Dec 2013. The Rules are the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes and subsequent World Health Assembly resolutions (the Code), which are the yardstick to measure compliance by all companies in all countries. Following the request for clarification of ‘inappropriate promotion’ of foods for infants and young children, BTR: in Brief provides examples of marketing tactics that should not be allowed. The emphasis is on toddler milks or growing up milks (GUMs), a product which has been generating huge profits for the baby food industry over the past decade or more. The inappropriate promotions reported are Code violations. This abridged report is meant to show how the 16 largest baby food companies continue to ignore international recommendations adopted to protect infants and young children the world over so the public and investors can hold them to account.
The CETIM (Europe-Third World Centre) has just published the fourth number of its series of didactic brochures and critical analysis about the Right to Health. This brochure is available for free in French, English and Spanish and can be downloaded/printed from the CETIM website.
Eduardo Gudynas looks at the main trends of the discourse around Buen Vivir in South America as a political platform for different visions of alternatives to development. He notes that any alternative to development must open paths to move beyond the modern Western culture. Buen Vivir, he argues gives that opportunity. Buen Vivir or Vivir Bien, are the Spanish words used in Latin America to describe alternatives to development focused on the good life in a broad sense. The term is actively used by social movements, and it has become a popular term in some government programs and has even reached its way into two new Constitutions in Ecuador and Bolivia. It is a plural concept with two main entry points. On the one hand, it includes critical reactions to classical Western development theory. On the other hand, it refers to alternatives to development emerging from indigenous traditions, and in this sense the concept explores possibilities beyond the modern Eurocentric tradition. The richness of the term is difficult to translate into English. It includes the classical ideas of quality of life, but with the specific idea that well-being is only possible within a community. Furthermore, in most approaches the community concept is understood in an expanded sense, to include nature. Buen Vivir therefore embraces the broad notion of well-being and cohabitation with others and with nature.
New research sheds light on the experience of almost 50 countries that have attained Universal Health Coverage (UHC) or made strides toward doing so. This research indicates that while there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach, there are parallels – and opinions on what aids or prevents UHC are often misinformed. It’s often thought that countries strive for UHC during periods of stability but research shows that most major moves towards UHC are triggered by a change in circumstances that breaks a country’s usual pattern that has prevented healthcare reform. It’s much more difficult to roll out UHC during fragile times – finances are often limited and subject to competing claims. But fragility appears to be a powerful motivation for UHC: disruption weakens powerbases that may oppose UHC and governments use healthcare to build legitimacy. Cost is often cited as a barrier to UHC but the gross national income in low- and middle-income countries where UHC is seen as cost-effective is only $1,524 more than those that think it is not – a 13% difference. Healthcare can be a contentious political issue. Dissatisfaction often remains strong until countries reach universality. But once achieved, UHC is usually robustly accepted across the political spectrum. Moreover, this consensus tends to prevail even in difficult situations. Around eight countries in the sample (15%) appear to have faced threats to their health system – including armed conflict in Ukraine and state fragility in Tanzania. The implications are argued to be clear: all countries have the potential to move towards UHC. The main barriers to UHC roll-out are political.