Lottie Lane & Yi Zhang

Annual Research Day

Expert meeting on NCDs, Human Rights and LawSeptember 22nd, 2015
Annual Research Day of ESCR Working Group, Co-organizing with IDLO, GHLG

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Upcoming Events of the ESCR Working Group

Dear all,

It is our pleasure to share with you a schedule of events to be held on 3 March 2016.

  • Seminar 11:00-12:30

The Right to Health: Uniting Practice and Academia

Venue: Room 7.55, J-Building/Bayle Building – Campus Woudestein

Burgemeester Oudlaan 50, 3062 PA Rotterdam, The Netherlands

  • Lunchtime Meeting 12:45-14:20

Economic Social and Cultural Rights Working Group of the Netherlands School of Human Rights Research

Venue:  Room 7.55, J-Building/Bayle Building – Campus Woudestein

Burgemeester Oudlaan 50, 3062 PA Rotterdam, The Netherlands

  • Defense Of the thesis 15:30-17:00

The Right to Health, Pharmaceutical Corporations and Intellectual Property: Access to Medicine

(School of Human Rights Research, 2015)

Doctoral Candidate: Shamiso Philomina Zinzombe LLB, LLM

Venue: Senaatszaal, Erasmus Building/A Building – Campus Woudestein

Burgemeester Oudlaan 50, 3062 PA Rotterdam, The Netherlands

Please note: you need to arrive at least 5 minutes before the doors shut at 15:30pm. The doors will close promptly at 15:30 pm. If you arrive after this time, you will not be able to enter and witness the Defense.

Netherlands School of Human Rights Research Conference: Human Rights Research Methodologies

On 25 November 2015 the University of Groningen has the pleasure of hosting this year’s Netherlands School of Human Rights Research Toogdag. Confirmed keynote speakers are: Hans-Otto Sano, Yvonne Donders and Ellen Desmet. In addition, three panel discussions will take place in the afternoon. The topics of these discussions are: 1) Human Rights Research Methods in the Field, 2) Interdisciplinary Research Methods and 3) Classical Human Rights Research Methods.

The conference venue is Het Kastel in Groningen. The conference is free of charge but registration is required. Please register by sending an email to toogdagNSHRR2015@gmail.com.

poster-nl-school-of-human-rights-research-toogdag-2015-3 school-of-human-rights-research-toogdag-2015-3

Save the Date! Global Health Law Groningen is hosting a seminar on Domestic Implementation of the Right to Health on 26 October!

A Human Rights Approach to Non-Communicable Diseases: Expert Meeting Report

Text adopted from the website of the International Development Law Organization (IDLO).

More than twenty international law and global health experts have adopted a consensus statement on responses to non-communicable diseases (NCDs) at the end of an expert meeting in The Hague on 22 September 2015.

The IDLO-hosted event was examining human rights-based approaches and domestic legal responses to NCDs. Participants reviewed how international human rights law could contribute to the global response to NCDs, and discussed whether new sources of legal obligation were needed. The focus was on obesity, diabetes and unhealthy diets, but the conclusions contain lessons for all NCDs.

“Who was protecting the rights of the three-year-old girl diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes as a result of an unhealthy diet?” asked Dr David Cavan of the International Diabetes Federation.

“In order to scale up action on global health, we need a global language. Human rights is that language,” said David Patterson, IDLO’s senior legal expert for health issues. “This means civil society participation in decisions about global health challenges, and promoting accountability and the rule of law.”

His position was echoed by Professor Brigit Toebes of the University of Groningen: “Human rights law,” she said, “contains a set of key values that can guide and inspire domestic NCD laws and policies.”

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), NCDs are the biggest cause of preventable illness, disability and mortality worldwide. They account for 38 million deaths annually, almost three-quarters of which occur in low- and middle-income countries. These premature deaths are largely avoidable by tackling shared risk factors, such as tobacco use, unhealthy diets, physical inactivity and the harmful use of alcohol.

Comprehensive legislative and regulatory frameworks and legal practices are an essential part of the national response, the meeting heard. The possibility was raised of adopting a specialized international legal instrument, within the framework of the WHO, which could strengthen the current legal framework for tackling NCDs.

The event was co-sponsored by Global Health Law Groningen and the Economic, Social and Cultural Rights Working Group of the Netherlands School of Human Rights Research.

Read the NCDs Consensus Statement here.

Inter-American Human Rights Treaty on the Rights of Older People Defines a Broad Scale of (New) Health Rights: Precedent for a UN Treaty?

Marlies Hesselman, University of Groningen

On 15 June 2015, the member states of the Organization of American States (OAS) approved the Inter-American Convention on Protecting the Human Rights of Older Persons during the General Assembly of the institution. The resolution was not supported by Canada or the USA, but immediately attracted signatures from 5 members of the OAS (Brazil, Uruguay, Chile, Costa Rica and Argentina). The instrument needs two ratifications before it enters into force.

The document can already be taken as a landmark document, however, recognizing for the first time specifically the vulnerability of older persons and their specific rights. According to a press release of the OAS and the new Convention itself, ‘the purpose of the Convention – the first regional instrument of its kind in the world -, is to promote, protect and ensure the recognition and the full enjoyment and exercise, on an equal basis, of all human rights and fundamental freedoms of older persons, in order to contribute to their full inclusion, integration and participation in society. The starting point of the Convention is the recognition that all existing human rights and fundamental freedoms apply to older people, and that they should fully enjoy them on an equal basis with other segments of the population.”

One of the questions that this new regional convention raises is whether it supports and “strengthens the case for a new international UN convention on the rights of older people” as well. We very much like to invite you for a discussion on this question! Is it opportune to recognize a right to healthy and active ageing for the elderly internationally as well, or in a European document? Are these rights currently sufficiently protected? Please share your thoughts in the comment box.

To illustrate the scope of rights to health recognized in the Convention, the convention seems to underscore a range of rights not normally explicitly included in treaties, such as acces to ‘palliative care’, or the concept of ‘active and healthy ageing’. The Convention inter alia includes the following definitions and provisions on the right to health:

Art. 2 (definitions:)

“Palliative care”: Active, comprehensive, and interdisciplinary care and treatment of patients whose illness is not responding to curative treatment or who are suffering avoidable pain, in order to improve their quality of life until the last day of their lives. Central to palliative care is control of pain, of other symptoms, and of the social, psychological, and spiritual problems of the older person. It includes the patient, their environment, and their family. It affirms life and considers death a normal process, neither hastening nor delaying it.
[…]

“Multiple discrimination”: Any distinction, exclusion, or restriction toward an older person, based on two or more discrimination factors.

“Age discrimination in old age”: Any distinction, exclusion, or restriction based on age, the purpose or effect of which is to annul or restrict recognition, enjoyment, or exercise, on an equal basis, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, cultural, economic, social, or any other sphere of public and private life.

“Active and healthy ageing”:  The process of optimizing opportunities for physical, mental, and social well-being, participation in social, economic, cultural, spiritual, and civic affairs, and protection, security, and care in order to extend healthy life expectancy and quality of life for all people as they age, as well as to allow them to remain active contributors to their families, peers, communities, and nations. It applies both to individuals and to population groups.

“Integrated social and health care services”: Institutional benefits and entitlements to address the health care and social needs of older persons with a view to guaranteeing their dignity and well-being and to promoting their independence and autonomy.

[…]

Article 11

Right to give free and informed consent on health matters

Older persons have the inalienable right to express their free and informed consent on health matters. Denial of that right constitutes a form of violation of the human rights of older persons.
[read rest of article and specific obligations here: OAS Human Rights Treaty on Older People -2015]

Article 12

Rights of older persons receiving long-term care

Older persons have the right to a comprehensive system of care that protects and promotes their health, provides social services coverage, food and nutrition security, water, clothing, and housing, and promotes the ability of older persons to stay in their own home and maintain their independence and autonomy, should they so decide.

[read rest of article and specific obligations here: OAS Human Rights Treaty on Older People -2015]

The Right to Health itself has also been comprehensively defined in article 19 of the new Convention, reading in full:

Article 19

Right to health

Older persons have the right to physical and mental health without discrimination of any kind.

States Parties shall design and implement comprehensive-care oriented intersectoral public health policies that include health promotion, prevention and care of disease at all stages, and rehabilitation and palliative care for older persons, in order to promote enjoyment of the highest level of physical, mental and social well-being.  To give effect to this right, States Parties undertake to:

a. Ensure preferential care and universal, equitable and timely access to quality, comprehensive, primary care-based social and health care services, and take advantage of traditional, alternative, and complementary medicine, in accordance with domestic laws and with practices and customs.

b. Formulate, implement, strengthen, and assess public policies, plans, and strategies to foster active and healthy ageing.

c. Foster public policies on the sexual and reproductive health of older persons.

d. Encourage, where appropriate, international cooperation in the design of public policies, plans, strategies and legislation, and in the exchange of capacities and resources for implementing health programs for older persons and their process of ageing.

e. Strengthen prevention measures through health authorities and disease prevention, including courses on health education, knowledge of pathologies, and the informed opinion of the older person in the treatment of chronic illnesses and other health problems.

f. Ensure access to affordable and quality health care benefits and services for older persons with non-communicable and communicable diseases, including sexually transmitted diseases.

g. Strengthen implementation of public policies to improve nutrition in older persons.

h. Promote the development of specialized integrated social and health care services for older persons with diseases that generate dependency, including chronic degenerative diseases, dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease.

i. Strengthen the capacities of health, social, and integrated social and health care workers, as well as those of other actors, to provide care to older persons based on the principles set forth in this Convention.

j. Promote and strengthen research and academic training for specialized health professionals in geriatrics, gerontology, and palliative care.

k. Formulate, adapt, and implement, in accordance with domestic law, policies on training in and the use of traditional, alternative, and complementary medicine in connection with comprehensive care for older persons.

l. Promote the necessary measures to ensure that palliative care services are available and accessible for older persons, as well as to support their families.

m. Ensure that medicines recognized as essential by the World Health Organization, including controlled medicines needed for palliative care, are available and accessible for older persons.

n. Ensure access for older persons to the information contained in their personal records, whether physical or digital.

o.Promote and gradually ensure, in accordance with their capabilities, coaching and training for persons who provide care to older persons, including family members, in order to ensure their health and well-being.

Article 24

Right to housing

Older persons have the right to decent and adequate housing and to live in safe, healthy, and accessible environments that can be adapted to their preferences and needs.

States Parties shall adopt appropriate measures to promote the full enjoyment of this right and facilitate access for older persons to integrated social and health care services and to home care services that enable them to reside in their own home, should they wish.

[read rest of article and specific obligations here: OAS Human Rights Treaty on Older People -2015]

Article 25

Right to a healthy environment

Older persons have the right to live in a healthy environment with access to basic public services.

[read rest of article and specific obligations here: OAS Human Rights Treaty on Older People -2015]

Again, we are looking forward to hearing your opinions on this new and unique Convention! How can we strenghtent the opportunities for active and healthy ageing in both developed and developing countries? What can European countries take away from this Convention?
Sources:
https://www.opensocietyfoundations.org/voices/human-rights-treaty-finally-recognizes-right-palliative-care

http://www.rightsofolderpeople.org/inter-american-convention-on-protecting-the-human-rights-of-older-persons/
http://www.theguardian.com/global-development/poverty-matters/2013/jul/31/ageism-human-rights-older-people
http://social.un.org/ageing-working-group/index.shtml

One of the multi-discplinary focus areas at the University of Groningen and the UMCG is ‘healthy ageing’. For more information about the research in this field at the RuG, see here:http://www.rug.nl/research/healthy-ageing/programme-healty-ageing?lang=en

GHLG presents empirical evidence on access to medicines at international norms & domestic law-making @ University of Basel workshop

On September 4th, our pilot results from the Essential Laws for Medicines Access project were presented at the workshop‘International Law and Domestic Law Making Process’ at the University of Basel. This invited presentation contributed empirical evidence about the introduction of access to medicines in domestic law as part of the international norm, the right to health, to the broader discussion about which factors determine the relationship between international and domestic law and whether governments have sufficient leeway in deciding how to implement their international commitments.

Our preliminary findings show that only two countries in our sample take a rights-based approach to universal access in domestic law. Future research will elaborate on these results to understand what factors led governments to make these commitments and what has resulted from them. (See our open call for research assistance)

Dr. Ioana Cismas (Stirling Law School, Scotland) chaired our discussion about this and other evidence from the democratic legitimation of trade agreements in Switzerland, presented by Dr. Charlotte Sieber-Gasser (World Trade Institute & Graduate Institute), and the use of flexibility mechanisms in human rights treaties, presented by Gentiana Imeri (University of St. Gallen). The workshop was graciously organised by Dr. Evelyne Schmid and Dr. Tilmann Altwicker in collaboration with the AjV (Arbeitskreis junger Volkerrechtswissenschaftler*innen). The workshop programme is available here.

‘Egypt’s battle to end female genital mutilation’

Egypt is still struggling to prevent the practice of female genital mutilation (FGM), which 90% of women under the age of 50 have had to suffer. The practice was banned in 2008, but FGM, seen as a way of purifying young girls (usually between 9 and 12 years old), is still widespread. Both the United Nations and human rights organisations have expressed concerns that the practice violates the prohibition of torture, the right to health, and sometimes the right to life. In January 2015, a doctor was jailed after a 13 year old girl died as a result of him conducting the procedure. This was the first time that the 2008 law was successfully implemented, and is hoped to discourage other doctors from performing FGM (see news report here).

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