Past Program

Nov 09 - Nov 14, 2012

Realizing the Right to Health: How can a rights-based approach best contribute to the strengthening, sustainability and equity of access to medicines and health systems?


Health is a fundamental right recognized in numerous international instruments, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Despite significant improvements, access to health care services - and, in particular, equitable access - remains a major challenge facing developing countries: the desire to achieve universal coverage and the pursuit of the right to health can conflict with resource constraints.

Our aim will therefore be to review how health policy and decision makers can best set priorities to support the right to health. A human rights perspective does not imply unrealistic aspirations. It requires that countries do better next year than they are doing today, and demands more of high-income than low-income countries.

We will explore the ways in which the human rights perspective and the health systems /development perspective may converge, as both require long-term strategies and planning, and both address participation, accountability, non-discrimination, and attention to vulnerable groups. We will also consider how to assess the true demand for health services by engaging patients in shared information and decision making, and how better measurement of needs and wants may shape whatever provision may be made available. Through this approach, health care may come to be seen as a knowledge-intensive service rather than a collection of highly trained people doing things to other people - a shift of perspective that can help to realize the right to health.

Our two guiding questions will be:

How can the rights-based approach contribute to the strengthening, sustainability and equity of access to medicines and health systems? And how can national and global health policy experiences contribute to the full realization of the right to health?

Specific topics will include:

  1. Access to medicines
  2. The potential of IT to overcome major challenges, including assessing levels and distribution of access to medicines and health care.
  3. The use of information collaboratively with physicians in shared medical decision-making, ensuring respect for patient preferences in diverse contexts.
  4. Better alignment of health care provision with true demand for services through better measurement of wants and needs.
  5. The role of strategic litigation and judicial decisions in seeking redress in health policy.


The meeting is envisioned as being highly participatory, with a strong focus on building new insights, aggregating perspectives and experiences from different sectors, areas of expertise and regions. Participants will include diverse stakeholders, including health policy practitioners, development practitioners, human rights experts, members of the judiciary, representatives of the pharmaceutical industry, representatives of civil society and patients' organizations, IT community members, physicians, and academics.

For information on registration, please contact John Lotherington, Program Director