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This is a pivotal moment in the global governance response to pandemic threats, with crucial global health law reforms being undertaken simultaneously in the coming years: the revision of the International Health Regulations, the implementation of the GHSA Legal Preparedness Action Package, and the negotiation of a new Pandemic Treaty. Rather than looking at these reforms in isolation, it will be necessary to examine how they fit together, considering: how these reforms can complement each other to support pandemic prevention, preparedness, and response; what financing mechanisms are necessary to ensure sustainable health governance; and why vital norms of equity, social justice, and human rights must underpin this new global health system.
Despite a recent wave in global recognition of the rights of transgender and gender-diverse populations, referred to in this text by the umbrella label of trans*, international law continues to presume a cisgender binary definition of gender — dismissing the lived realities of trans* individuals throughout the world. This gap in international legal recognition and protection has fundamental implications for health, where trans* persons have been and continue to be subjected to widespread discrimination in health care, longstanding neglect of health needs, and significant violations of bodily autonomy.
Recognizing marked limitations of global health law in the COVID-19 pandemic, a rising number of states are supporting the development of a new pandemic treaty. This prospective treaty has the potential to clarify state obligations for pandemic preparedness and response and strengthen World Health Organization authorities to promote global health security. Examining the essential scope and content of a pandemic treaty, this column analyzes the policymaking processes and substantive authorities necessary to meet this historic moment.
While human rights law has evolved to provide guidance to governments in realizing human rights in public health emergencies, the COVID-19 pandemic has challenged the foundations of human rights in global health governance. Public health responses to the pandemic have undermined international human rights obligations to realize (1) the rights to health and life, (2) human rights that underlie public health, and (3) international assistance and cooperation. As governments prepare for revisions of global health law, new opportunities are presented to harmonize global health law and human rights law, strengthening rights-based governance to respond to future threats.
Immunization plays a crucial role in global health security, preventing public health emergencies of international concern and protecting individuals from infectious disease outbreaks, yet these critical public health benefits are dependent on immunization law. Where public health law has become central to preventing, detecting, and responding to infectious disease, public health law reform is seen as necessary to implement the Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA). This article examines national immunization laws as a basis to implement the GHSA and promote the public's health, analyzing the scope and content of these laws to prevent infectious disease across Sub-Saharan Africa. Undertaking policy surveillance of national immunization laws in 20 Sub-Saharan African countries, this study: (1) developed a legal framework to map the legal attributes relevant to immunization; (2) created an assessment tool to determine the presence of these attributes under national immunization law; and (3) applied this assessment tool to code national legal landscapes. An analysis of these coded laws highlights legal attributes that govern vaccine requirements, supply chains, vaccine administration standards, and medicines quality and manufacturer liability. Based upon this international policy surveillance, it will be crucial to undertake legal epidemiology research across countries, examining the influence of immunization law on vaccination rates and disease outbreaks.
In the development of a rights-based approach to global health governance, international organizations have looked to human rights under international law as a basis for public health. Operationalizing human rights law through global health policy, the World Health Organization (WHO) has faced obstacles in efforts to mainstream human rights across the WHO Secretariat. Without centralized human rights leadership in an increasingly fragmented global health policy landscape, regional health offices have sought to advance human rights in health governance and support states in realizing a rights-based approach to health. Examining the efforts of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), this article explores the evolution of human rights in PAHO policy, assesses the mainstreaming of human rights in the Pan American Sanitary Bureau (Bureau or PASB), and analyzes the future of the rights-based approach through regional health governance.
Domestic litigation has become a principal strategy for realizing international treaty obligations for the human right to health, providing causes of action for the public’s health and empowering individuals to raise human rights claims for HIV prevention, treatment, and care. In the past 15 years, advocates have laid the groundwork on which a rapidly expanding enforcement paradigm has arisen at the intersection of human rights litigation and HIV/AIDS policy. As this enforcement develops across multiple countries, human rights are translated from principle to practice in the global response to HIV/AIDS, transforming aspirational declarations into justiciable obligations and implementing human rights through national policies and programs.
This paper is one of the four interrelated action agenda papers resulting from the National Summit on Public Health Legal Preparedness (Summit) convened in June 2007 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and multi-disciplinary partners. Each of the action agenda papers deals with one of the four core elements of legal preparedness: laws and legal authorities; competency in using those laws; and coordination of law-based public health actions; and information.
This action agenda offers options for consideration by those responsible for or interested in ensuring that public health professionals, their legal counsels, and relevant partners understand the legal framework in which they operate and are competent in applying legal authorities to public health emergency preparedness.
Competencies are critical to an individual's ability to make effective legal response to all-hazards public emergencies.
In confronting the insalubrious ramifications of globalization, human rights scholars and activists have argued for greater national and international responsibility pursuant to the human right to health. Codified seminally in Article 12 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), the right to health proclaims that states bear an obligation to realize the “highest attainable standard” of health for all. However, in pressing for the highest attainable standard for each individual, the right to health has been ineffective in compelling states to address burgeoning inequalities in underlying determinants of health, focusing on individual medical treatments at the expense of public health systems. This article contends that the paradigm of individual health, focused on a right to individual medical care, is incapable of responding to health inequities in a globalized world and thereby hampers efforts to operationalize health rights through public health systems. While the right to health has evolved in international discourse over time, this evolution of the individual right to health cannot address the harmful societal ramifications of economic globalization. Rather than relying solely upon an individual right to medical care, envisioning a collective right to public health – a right applied at the societal level to address underlying determinants of health – would alleviate many of the injurious health inequities of globalization.
Society benefits from physicians who seek truth and healing for the good of humanity. Despite ethical admonishments to “do no harm,” however, physicians have caused some of the most appalling human rights abuses of the twentieth century. Physicians, alone or in concert with the state, have willfully abused their medical knowledge and debauched their profession in furtherance of human rights violations. Compounding their crimes, physicians often have been complicit in following oppressive regimes in abusive practices against their citizens. Ironically, it is their knowledge of this healing art that allows physicians to take part in this injurious conduct; and it is this knowledge that states seek to harness in buttressing violative policies. In fact, for nations bent on violating human rights, it is “much easier for governments to adopt inherently evil and destructive policies if they are aided by the patina of legitimacy that physician participation provides.”
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