South American Regional Consultation on the Right to Health*
On March 25th and 26th, 2009 in São Paulo, Brazil, Anand Grover, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health attended a South American Consultation about the Right to Health where he met 40 representatives of civil society organizations from Argentina, Colombia, Paraguay, Uruguay, Peru, Venezuela and Brazil. The meeting that was invited by the Rapporteur – and facilitated by Conectas Human Rights, Sexuality Policy Watch (SPW) and ABIA (Brazilian Interdisciplinary Association on AIDS) – has been a first in a series of regional consultations planned by the Rapporteur to collect deeper knowledge and dialogue with key civil society actors in relation to key trends and challenges that may be relevant for the implementation of his mandate.
The Rapporteur was accompanied by Dragrana Korljan, from the Officer of the High Commissioner on Human Rights, and Diya Uberoi, from his India team. The organizations that participated in the consultation are engaged with a wide range of issues ranging from the health of indigenous and afro-Brazilian populations, to health crisis in situations of conflict. Also present were NGOs networks involved in sexual and reproductive health and rights and HIV/AIDS work, including groups representing the rights of transsexual and intersex persons.
In his initial intervention the Rapporteur raised questions related to women’s health and sexual and reproductive rights more broadly. He also discussed strategies to guarantee access to medicines – especially in the case of HIV/Aids and other infectious diseases – and to limit the power of the transnational pharmaceutical industry. He has also explicitly expressed his interest in learning more about the health of indigenous peoples and the impact of racial discrimination on the access to health services and quality of care. The Rapporteur and his team have also provided detailed and updated information about the functioning and possibilities of the mandate, including the existing mechanisms and procedures that can facilitate the communication with civil society organizations”. In the words of Juana Kweitel, from Conectas:
“The consultation, on the one hand, provided the Rapporteur with an opportunity to learn directly from primary sources what are the main concerns of organizations whose work is related to the right to health, in its various expressions, across South America. On the other hand, the meeting also open the space for the organizations that were present to get closer to one of the most effective United Nations mechanisms for the protection to the Human Rights, which is the work, performed by committed Special Rapporteurs. From now on it becomes more easy for those who participated in the consultation to find the most efficient way to use the channels of communication that have been opened is order to guarantee the right to health of those who are the most vulnerable”.
Nature of the Mandate
Special Rapporteurs are independent experts named by the UN to monitor, evaluate and inform about a specific human rights issues or situations of human rights in a certain country or territory. In 2002, the Human Rights Commission (HRC), a special body in charge of dealing with human rights issues in the United Nations system, decided create a new mandate to monitor the right of everyone to to attain and enjoy the highest standard of physical and mental health. The New Zealander law professor, Paul Hunt, was the first Special Rapporteur between 2002 and 2008 and Anand Grover was nominated for the post on August 1st, 2008.
Anand Grover is the Director of Lawyers Collective in India, which operates through offices in Mumbai, New Delhi and Bangalore. As a lawyer he has litigated a number of court cases whose results are critical from the point of view of the right to health such as: environmental impact, sexual harassment, right to marriage. He also litigated the Delhi Court case against Article 377, of the Indian Penal Code (that criminalizes “unnatural sexual acts,” sex workers rights, intellectual property issues and animal rights. One of these cases prevented the patenting of Nevirapine, a product used in HIV/AIDS treatment, in India.
For more information about the Special Rapporteur, visit the Lawyers Collective website .
* Source: Conectas Human Rights