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Institute of Biomedical Ethics and History of Medicine (IBME)

Effy Vayena has published a new paper in "The Lancet"

The paper entitled "Getting Human Rights Right in Global Health Policy” highlights a disturbing trend away from human rights in the global development agenda. The international community is currently in the process of formulating the Sustainable Development Goals that will set the post-2015 development agenda. Many UN bodies, NGOs, governments and members of civil society have called for the SDGs to be embedded in a human rights framework.

However, in July of this year, the UN's Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals, of which Prime Minister David Cameron is co-chair, issued an outcome document that makes very sparing use of the words 'human rights'.

The paper by Professor John Tasioulas (King’s College London) and Dr Effy Vayena (University of Zurich) focuses specifically on the place of human rights in global health policy and argues for two main propositions.

First, global health policy needs to attend to more than just human rights - vitally important though they are. Global health policy, they argue, needs to promote compliance with duties people have to themselves (e.g. to maintain a healthy diet and lifestyle) and to foster health-related common goods (e.g. the common good of a compassionate culture of organ donation). Human rights cannot be the whole of global health policy.

Second, insofar as human rights are relevant to global health policy, they include more than just the human right to health. The human right to health should be understood as a right to certain medical services and public health measures. It does not include - as some UN bodies and activists claim - rights to education, housing, and to be free from gender discrimination and torture. Instead, these are independent rights. There is more to human rights in global health policy than the human right to health. Link