Know-how to create change: The Global Health and Human Rights Database is launched

Ever wanted to know more about how human rights can be harnessed towards improving health around the world? The Lawyer’s Collective and O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law launched the Global Health and Human Rights Database on 24 October 2013 at the UN Headquarters in New York.

Developed in partnership with civil society, academia, international organizations and legal practice, it is the first of its kind. It is a free online database on the interface between health and human rights, covering 80 countries and over 1000 cases in civil and common law. Cases and legal instruments on HIV, sexual and reproductive health, maternal health and a wide range of health issues are compiled and summarized in English and accessible in a free, up to date, and user friendly format.

In his opening address, Anand Grover, the UN Special Rapporteur for the Right to Health and Director of the HIV/AIDS Unit at The Lawyers’ Collective shared how the idea took seed. On a visit to Brazil, he found that many judgments on health and human rights were only available in Spanish or Portuguese. Those not part of the ‘cosy club’ of American-Latin American jurisprudence had no access. Simply put, he wanted to create an opportunity for other people to read those judgments. Ford Foundation and Levi Strauss Foundation made that a reality by funding the project.

The database is a platform where strategies for change can be shared among activists and advocates around the world. Previously unobtainable information on important documents and rulings are now available for anyone to read and study. As Grover sums up, ‘Activists need it, lawyers need it, researchers need it’.

The database shows the diversity of thinking on health and human rights, on issues such as community participation, non-discrimination, and the availability, accessibility and affordability of treatment. Lawrence O. Gostin, Faculty Director of the O’Neill Institute says that the database is particularly useful for members of the community who want to understand human rights and how to exercise these. By scoping the examples that exist out there, we can see what arguments people have made to affect change, and how we might be able to push further to establish rights. It brings ‘all the world’s resources about health and human rights, two of the most important things in the whole world together in a comprehensive, understandable way’

The Global Health and Human Rights Database is for all those that want to move human rights principle to practice in the field of health. Grover envisions the database to be ‘community owned by activists, researchers and community participants’.

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