June 29, 2014
In its latest session, the Human Rights Council appointed Mr. Dainius Puras from Lithuania as the third Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health.
Puras (56) is a Professor at Vilnius University, Lithuania, and has extensive expertise on the right to health and a specific interest in child rights and mental health. Since 1986, he teaches courses on public mental health, child mental health and health policy at Vilnius University. He has published extensively in national and international journals on health and human rights related issues, and has contributed to book chapters as well. In 2011, he authored the study “The rights of vulnerable children under the age of three” commissioned by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).
A long time human rights advocate, Puras is currently chair of the board of the Human Rights Monitoring Institute and of the Lithuanian coalition “For child rights”. From 2007 to 2011 he was a member of the UN Committee on Child Rights. Since 1990, he has worked with international organizations, NGOs and governments in many countries, including consultations to UNICEF, the WHO Mental Health Programme and the WHO Task Force for Child and Adolescent Mental Health.
Views on the mandate
In his application letter Puras wrote: “My views have been influenced by the fact that since the 1980s I have been serving children and adults with mental disabilities. I have often observed that doctors and policy makers make decisions without consulting with patients and their family members. This mistake has led in numerous instances to sad consequences, amounting to grave violations of human rights. The need to apply modern human rights principles in healthcare practice remains important globally, and should be raised at the highest possible level.”
With regards to the Special Rapporteur’s mandate, the letter continues:
“Based on my multi-faceted experience, I have a vision of how a twofold approach could be embraced by the UN Special Rapporteur. Firstly, it is fundamental to continue an effective promotion of right-to-health principles and values, such as non-discrimination, equality, participation, autonomy, transparency. Secondly, it is important to implement key right-to-health mechanisms, such as situation analysis, development of national strategies, monitoring and accountability. I am intimately familiar with strengths and weaknesses of healthcare systems, and thus I have an ambitious vision of contributing to a meaningful translation of modern evidence and values into an effective and rights-based practice.”
The new Special Rapporteur will take over from the old one, Anand Grover, in a couple of weeks.