Global Justice and Human Rights: Health and Human Rights in Practice


  • Daniel Tarantola



The origin and justification of human rights, whether anchored in biological theory, natural law theory, or interests theory, as well as their cultural specificity and actual value as international legal instruments are subject to ongoing lively debates. As theoretical and rhetorical discourses challenge and enrich current understanding of the value of human rights and their relevance to democratic governance, they have found their way into public health in recent decades and play today an increasing role in the shaping of health policies, programs and practice. Human rights define the obligations of states to their people and towards each other, create grounds for governmental accountability and inspire recognition of, and action on, factors influencing people’s attainment of the highest possible standard of health. This article highlights the evolution that has brought health and human rights together in mutually reinforcing ways. It draws from the experience gained in the global response to HIV/AIDS, summarizes key dimensions of public health and of human rights and suggests a manner in which these dimensions intersect in a framework for analysis and action.