and human rights: an inextricable linkage
H M Kishowar Hossain
Human rights and public
health are two complementary approaches. Human rights approach seeks to
describe and then to promote and protect the societal-level prerequisites
for human well being in which each individual can achieve his or her full
Modern human rights
are a historic effort to identify and agree upon what governments should
not do to people and what they should assure to all. While there is a
long history to human rights thinking, agreement was reached that all
people are "born free and equal in dignity and rights" when
the promotion of human rights was identified as a principal purpose of
the United Nations in 1945. Then, in 1948, the Universal Declaration of
Human Rights was adopted as a universal or common standard of achievement
for all peoples and all nations.
preamble to the Universal Declaration proposes that human rights and dignity
are self-evident, the "highest aspiration of the common people,"
and "the foundation of freedom, justice and peace." "Social
progress and better standards of life in large freedom" including
the prevention of "barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience
of mankind" and broadly speaking, individual and groups are considered
to depend upon the "promotion of universal respect for and observance
of human rights." These rights inhere in individuals because they
are human. They apply to all people around the world.
The specific rights
that form the corpus of human rights law are listed in several key documents.
These are the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), United Nations
Charter (UN Charter), the International Convenant on Civil and Political
Rights (ICCPR), the International Convenant on Economic, Social and Cultural
Rights (ICESCR). Although the UDHR is not a legally binding document,
nations have endowed it with great legitimacy through their actions.
Since 1948, the promotion
and protection of human rights have received increased attention from
communities and nations around the world. The awarding of the Nobel Peace
Prize for human rights work to Amnesty International and to Ms. Rigoberta
Menchu symbolises this extraordinary level of contemporary interest and
concern with human rights.
According to World
Health Organisation (WHO), health is a state of complete physical, mental
and social well being and not the absence of disease or infirmity. It
highlights the importance of health promotion as the process of enabling
people to increase control over and to improve their health.
Around the world,
health care is provided through many diverse public and private mechanisms.
The responsibilities of public health are carried out in large measure
through policies and programs promulgated, implemented and enforced by
or with support from the state.
The first main function
of public health is to assess health needs and problems. In response to
first function, it is said that a state's failure to recognise or acknowledge
health problems that preferentially affect a marginalised or stigmatised
group may violate the right to non-discrimination by leading to neglect
of necessary services and in so doing may adversely affect the realisation
of other rights, including the right to "security in the event f
sickness or disability" or to the special care and assistance to
which mothers and children are entitled (UDHR, Article 25).
The second major task
of public health is to develop policies to prevent and control priority
health problems. If a government refuses to disclose the scientific basis
of health policy or permit debate on its merits or in other ways refuses
to inform and involve the public in policies development, the rights to
seek, receive and impart information and ideas regardless of frontiers
(UDHR, Article 19) and to take part in the government directly or through
freely chosen representatives (UDHR, Article 21) may be violated.
The third core function
of public health, to assure services capable of realising policy goals,
is also closely linked with the right to non-discrimination. When health
social services do not take logistic, financial and socio-cultural barriers
to their access and enjoyment into account, international or uninternational
discrimination may readily occur. For example, in clinics for maternal
and child health, details such as hours of service, accessibility via
public transportation and availability of day care may strongly and adversely
influence service utilisation.
In conclusion, it
can be said that without human rights people and their communities cannot
be fully healthy. Securing health rights are to promote the human rights.
So securing human rights and meeting health related needs constitute the
critical step in addressing global health problems.
author is an Assistant Professor, Department of Population Sciences, University
of Dhaka, Dhaka.
International year to commemorate the struggle against slavery
The slave trade is
probably the human tragedy that affected the greatest number of people
for the longest period of time in history. However, it is only an episode
of slavery, which is a larger phenomenon that dates back to the earliest
Today, it persists
under new forms of massive violations of the human rights proclaimed in
the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of the United Nations in 1948
(child labour, forced labour, prostitution...etc).
The proclamation by
the United Nations General Assembly of the year 2004 as international
year to commemorate the struggle against slavery and its abolition marks,
on the one hand, the bicentenary of the proclamation of the first black
state, Haiti, symbol of the struggle and resistance of slaves, and triumph
of the principles of liberty, equality, dignity and the rights of the
individual, and, on the other, the fraternal reunion of the peoples of
Africa, the Americas, the Caribbean and Europe.
The aims of the commemoration
Sensitize the member states of the organization to the consequences of
slavery and its abolition throughout the African diaspora, and take cognizance
of the struggle for the liberation of the peoples concerned;
Commemorate the bicentenary
of the Haitian revolution which led to the establishment of the first
black republic in the western hemisphere, and, by extension, to the liberation
of the peoples of the Caribbean and Latin America from slavery;
Mobilize the international
community, the academic world and civil society towards helping to promote
a culture of peace in redressing the aftermath of this tragedy, in order
to prevent new forms of slavery.
UNESCO's action in
2004 will hinge on a number of priority thrusts adopting an inter-sectoral,
multidisciplinary and inter-institutional approach pinpointing in particular
the "Slave Route" project with the following principal axes:
historic truth, memory, intercultural dialogue, development and peace.
It is in this regard that the commemoration is of universal interest,
it will not simply refer to the past, but will give a clear view of the
present, offering lasting prospects of intercultural dialogue in the future.