Intercultural Human Rights Law Review

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The human right to health, maybe more than any other right, uncovers disparities in respect for the human dignity of persons, based on race or ethnicity, socioeconomic status, geographic location, gender or sexual orientation, age, mental health, disability, and other characteristics. This article discusses the place of the human right to health in international law: whether a human right to health exists at all and, if so, what that means. It will illustrate that while the right to health is not universally legally enforceable the realization of the right to health is indeed progressing. The 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights is not as such legally enforceable, yet it has led to at least universal awareness of human rights. The number of states that are parties to legally enforceable human rights treaties and that have enacted domestic human rights laws continues to grow, as does the network of values-based nongovernmental organizations and movements. This article first provides an explanation of the meaning of "human rights" and "the right to health." It examines to what extent both are enforceable under international law and achievable through non-legal sanctions or rewards. The second part of the article addresses recent world events that may not intuitively evoke the right to health, but in fact constitute violations of the most vulnerable people's right to health by the most powerful, and illustrate the breadth of issues that implicate the human right to health.

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