Proposed Framework Convention on the Right to Health

April 16, 2011


In March 2011, health and justice activists gathered in Johannesburg to debate strategies to achieve the Right to Health in Southern Africa. A short report of the meeting is now available.

On March 25 and 26 2011, SECTION27 brought together 70 activists and experts from 16 countries, mostly from Southern Africa but also from India, Brazil, the United States and Europe. Participants included many experts and advocates from health sectors, trade unionists and organisations including Treatment Action Campaign, Greenpeace, Medico International, the People’s Health Movement and Equinet. The activists gathered in Johannesburg to discuss the state of health services in the Southern African region, the barriers faced by activists and how to strengthen and unify campaigns around a new vision for achieving the right to health internationally.

The conference programme and presentations are available now on the SECTION27 website.

A short report of the meeting can be found below.


The meeting’s aim was to build a common vision, and if possible programme, for realising the right to health and to discuss how to mobilise and support new campaigns for health at local, national, regional and global levels. The conference tried to analyse why, despite growing global recognition that health is a human right, there are widening health inequalities and, in many areas of the world, people’s access to health care services is deteriorating. It debated possible new campaigns and the lack of accountability of both States and United Nations institutions to those in whose interests they claim to act. The importance of building capacity and power within poor communities where health conditions are most dire, ensuring participation of the most affected and vulnerable populations was reaffirmed.

Framework Convention on Global Health

A major objective of the consultation was to explore and debate whether, in future, a Framework Convention on Global Health (FCGH) could be an effective international legal instrument for coordination of currently fragmented activities, sustainable and sufficient resource mobilisation and standard-setting to realise the right to health. Could it be a means to greater accountability for and enforcement of the right to health? Could a global instrument assist and advance national and local struggles for health?

The consultation provoked intense debates and discussion on the right to health. Participants were unanimous that the right of everyone ‘to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health’ must be given more meaning and lead to results. Delegates felt that the legal obligations binding states to the right to health must be clarified and enforced. In the context of Southern Africa, where HIV continues to cause death and illness on a huge scale, there was a demand that the United Nations High Level Meeting (HLM) in June 2011 must be used to secure sustainable growth and funding for the response to HIV/AIDS and TB.

Popularising the Right to Health

The conference reinforced the view that there is a need to mobilise people from the grass-roots level to fight for their own rights to health by educating people on and popularising the right to health, and linking community and national movements into a truly global movement of the poor for the right to health. Finally, it confirmed the importance of exploring the idea of a future FCGH as one component of this struggle.


In the months ahead, discussions on a FCGH will continue and be refined within our organisations and communities, as well as at a meeting to be convened by the People’s Health Movement in Delhi in May 2011. A conference statement and resolutions from the southern African regional dialogue will be made available in the near future.

For further information, or to join the movement for a Framework Convention on Global Health: Varsha Lalla (Africa); Malini Aisola (Asia); Eric Friedman (North America)