Online Program

Evolution of human rights law in World Health Organization policy and the future of human rights law in global health governance

Tuesday, November 5, 2013 : 12:30 p.m. - 12:45 p.m.

Benjamin Mason Meier, JD, LLM, PhD, Deparment of Public Policy, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC
William Onzivu, LLB, LLM, Bradford University Law School, Bradford, West Yorkshire, United Kingdom
In the preamble of the 1948 World Health Organization (WHO) Constitution, states framed their post-war health cooperation under the unprecedented declaration, “the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health is one of the fundamental rights of every human being,” defining health positively to include “a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” Addressing threats to public health as “rights violations,” WHO's work at the intersection of health and human rights has offered international standards by which to frame government responsibilities and evaluate health policies and outcomes under law, shifting the debate from political aspiration to legal accountability. Yet although WHO was long seen at the forefront of efforts to realize human rights, this promise of a rights-based approach to health has become threatened by political constraints in international relations, organizational resistance to legal discourses, and civil society exclusion from global governance. Through legal research of international treaty obligations, historical research in the WHO organizational archives, and interview research with global health stakeholders, this research examines WHO's contributions to (and, in many cases, negligence of) a rights-based approach to global health governance. Based upon such research, this presentation analyzes the evolving role of WHO in the development and implementation of human rights for global health, reviews the current state of human rights leadership in the WHO Secretariat and regional offices, and proposes an institutional response to reclaim the mantle of human rights as a normative framework for global health partnerships.

Learning Areas:

Administration, management, leadership
Advocacy for health and health education
Public health or related laws, regulations, standards, or guidelines
Public health or related organizational policy, standards, or other guidelines
Public health or related public policy

Learning Objectives:
Define the role of the World Health Organization in global health governance. Explain the evolving nature of human rights law in the work of the World Health Organization. Analyze how international and institutional forces have limited the World Health Organization’s work to develop a rights-based approach to global health governance.

Keyword(s): International Public Health, Human Rights

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I conducted this research and co-authored the accompanying manuscript.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.