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AFRO-NETS> The role of human rights in politicizing our ethics and praxis in health
- Subject: AFRO-NETS> The role of human rights in politicizing our ethics and praxis in health
- From: Claudio Schuftan <firstname.lastname@example.org>
- Date: Thu, 21 Sep 2000 14:49:46 -0400 (EDT)
The role of human rights in politicizing our ethics and praxis in health
24 KEY STATEMENTS
1. The new Human Rights (HR) discourse in development has eight main
areas of concern: population and gender; mortality and fertility;
health; education; income and employment; habitat and infrastructure;
the environment; human security; and social justice: All of these im-
pinge on people's health and well-being.
2. The Human Rights approach is about getting the poor influence and,
more specifically, about the process that leads from the poor having
voice to having influence. It is about creating pressure groups
amongst those whose rights are being violated.
3. This HR discourse represents the resurrection-of or the return-to
a greater focus and action on the basic causes of the conceptual
framework of ill-health and malnutrition.
4. HR is about breaking the silence of powerlessness that keeps the
needs and desires of the poor from becoming part of national politi-
5. Commitment to change coming from ethical imperatives alone does
not fuel great social movements anymore; these imperatives lead to
soft solutions when faced with hard choices. We need to consolidate
our moral vision into moral outrage and that into political power to
achieve the health rights of people; this because we need hard ap-
proaches to address the very control processes in society.
6. So far, our prestige as health professionals has depended on lay-
ing claim to being rational and apolitical, on not getting involved
in the politics of it all. But when existing health policies and
standards are violating people 's basic rights, we have to openly op-
pose them. And for that, hard approaches are needed.
7. Actually, both ethically and politically motivated approaches to
HR are necessary; alone, each is necessary, but not sufficient.
8. We need moral advocates to influence perceptions; mobilization
agents and health promoters to influence action; and political advo-
cates to raise political consciousness and provide leadership.
9. Agreeing on the politics of HR -beyond ethics- is the real chal-
10. The HR discourse constitutes a paradigm break. But, so far, this
break has only been conceptual, not yet operational.
11. Operationalizing HR means becoming more political since HR is
about combating surplus powerlessness of the have-nots: How to opera-
tionalize this in the health field is a challenge awaiting us.
12. Only a process of mobilization of beneficiaries around health is-
sues will do. Such a mobilization has to lead to empowerment and to
concrete actions (self-help, lobbying, placing demands, public demon-
strations, exerting active resistance to social abuses).
13. Without genuine political mobilization, development in health is
like a Christmas toy: batteries not included.
14. Economic justifications or excuses of governments do not relieve
them from their duty to fulfil the rights particularly of women and
15. As opposed to people having basic needs, having basic rights
makes it possible for rights holders to legitimately claim the same.
The new Human Rights paradigm thus strengthens our hand to act.
16. The HR approach imposes clear obligations on duty bearers that
must be met. Such obligations include respecting, protecting and ful-
filling all applicable to health.
17. States have the duty to improve health services and we have to
hold them accountable to it.
18. The values we will now be advocating for are underpinned by In-
ternational Human Rights Law. And that gives us added strength.
19. The focus now has shifted to the politico-legal links between
health and HR.
20. Most of us stand accused for our complacency towards violations
of HR. We cannot escape taking part of the blame.
21. We now have to contribute to clarify universal minima for HR in
the health field, to establish explicit HR goals and measurable ob-
jectives in health.
22. We may not exert political leadership on these issues yet, but we
cannot run away from at least showing intellectual leadership.
23. We have to overcome the culture of silence and apathy about Human
Rights issues, because rights have to be taken, they are not given.
24. The call is for us to move from a basic needs to a rights-based
approach in which beneficiaries become active claim holders exerting
all the needed pressures on pertinent individual and institutional
duty bearers to act.
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