University of Minnesota

Study Guide:

The Right to Means for Adequate Health

Copyright © 2003 University of Minnesota Human Rights Center.
Permission is granted to use this material for non-commercial purposes. Please use proper attribution.


I. Introduction
II. Key Terms
III. Rights at Stake
IV. International and Regional Instruments of Protection
V. Advocacy, Educational & Training Materials
VI. Other Resources & Links

Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care

Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 25

I. Introduction

What is the Right to Adequate Health?

The idea that all people are entitled to have the physical needs of their bodies satisfied is at the heart of the human rights movement. This includes the right to survive and to live free of reasonably preventable suffering. The Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) articulates this right to adequate health in Article 25:

“Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care…”

This definition deviates from the conception of rights held in the18th and 19th centuries, which only restrained the state from actively denying citizens their basic civil and economic rights. (Eide et al. 386). UDHR Article 25 contends that states must also take action to ensure that all citizens enjoy an adequate standard of living. It recognizes food, clothing, housing, health care and social services as essential components of a standard of living adequate for health and well-being.

Defining the precise standards that must evaluate these components is difficult since states with different economic and social histories and capacities have different understandings of an “adequate standard of living.

Article 12 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) defines the right to adequate health in a relative fashion:

“… the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health.”

This statement does not, however, settle the issue since it is not clear whether the “highest attainable standard” should be assessed with respect to the economic infrastructure of a single nation or with respect to the global community. Certainly, in some cases the highest attainable standard of living that a nation can provide does not satisfy the existing consensus on the minimum health-related rights to which all people are entitled (i.e., vaccines, physical therapies, geriatric care). Partially because many governments in developing world cannot provide adequate health care and living conditions for all their citizens, their populations suffer disproportionately from diseases that are routinely preventable or curable in developed nations. According to current World Health Organization (WHO) estimates 1.7 million people die annually in developing countries from diseases resulting from unclean water and inadequate sanitation. (WHO 9) Over three million children die annually from malnutrition while an estimated 170 million children suffer from under nutrition. Due to insufficient prenatal and early childhood healthcare, as well as lack of nutrition, developing nations manifest high mortality rates for children under five years old. Consider that in 2001, Sweden, a developed nation, had a world-low mortality rate for children under five of 3.5 deaths per 1,000 children born. Sierra Leon, a developing nation, had a world-high mortality rate for children under five of 313 deaths per 1,000 children born. (WHO 183-184) Even in the developed world, huge health disparities exist between majority and minority, rich and poor, and urban and rural populations. In 1999, in the United States, the infant mortality rate for infants born to African-American mothers was 14.1 deaths per 1000 live births. The infant mortality rate for infants born to white non-Hispanic mothers was 5.8 deaths per 1000 live births. (Matthews et al. 1

In order to improve the standard of living in developing nations immediate attention should be directed towards the following challenges:

A number of cost-effective, international efforts suggest that the majority of health problems of the developing world can be dealt with effectively. For example:

However, many nations cannot afford the relatively low cost of such therapies, If the promise of UDHR Article 25 is to be fulfilled, the responsibility for ensuring that all people enjoy adequate health care and living conditions falls upon the developed world.

II. Key Terms


The condition or fact of being unequal, as in age, rank, or degree; difference. (


The process of isolating a specific group in a separate part of town, usually in an economically deprived area.


Poor nutrition because of an insufficient or poorly balanced diet or faulty digestion or utilization of foods. (


The incidence of disease: the rate of sickness (as in a specified community or group).(Medline Plus)

Neonatal Care

Relating to, or affecting the newborn and especially the human infant during the first month after birth. (MedLine Plus Medical Dictionary)


To classify, include, or incorporate in a more comprehensive category or under a general principle. (


Deficient bodily nutrition due to inadequate food intake or faulty assimilation -- called also hyponutrition. (MedLine Plus Medical Dictionary)

III. Rights at Stake  

Unlike many other International Rights the right to adequate health is not contained in a single specific treaty, but is subsumed under other treaties and resolutions. While the treaty language varies across UN documents, three key concepts arise:  

  1. States have the responsibility to guarantee their citizens the right to adequate health. When for whatever reason they are unable to do so, the international community must assume that responsibility.
  2. States have the responsibility to ensure that none of their citizens are deprived of this right by state action.
  3. These rights are guaranteed to all citizens, regardless of race, religion, gender, age, or social standing in the community, or other status.    

This final point deserves special consideration since discrimination is practiced against people in all nations of the world in ways that may not be immediately obvious. 

A person’s race, sex, religion and social standing can affect the quality of care he or she receives. Sometimes a state or a health care facility explicitly denies care members of a specific group; at other times such discrimination is a matter of practice rather than official policy. If particular minority group is not represented in the health care profession, clinics or hospitals can be intimidating for people of this group. In addition, the poor in both developed and developing countries may be denied health care because they cannot afford it. The concentration of health facilities in cities excludes many rural people. Finally, minority religious and racial groups are often forced—intentionally or due to their own poverty—to live in areas where substandard sanitation and water damage human health.

The very young and the very old, both of which have special needs, are especially vulnerable to the effects of poor health care. Children and old people are often unable to recognize or protest when their rights to care are violated. Without family support, the old and the young may receive no care from the state.

The right to adequate health operates directly or indirectly as a prerequisite to all other human rights recognized in treaties; to deny someone health care is to deny or damage all that individual’s rights. Without health, individuals are denied their right to be contributing members of the community and to provide for their families. I Individuals who lack adequate health care can thus lose some or all ability to exercise fully the civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights they possess.

It is difficult to predict how the fulfillment of the right to adequate health will change in the future. The trend has been towards a more inclusive definition of the right to health for different segments of the population, most notably children and women. Consider the expansion of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (Children’s Convention), which establishes that children are autonomous beings and not merely extensions of their family. (Eide 401) The Children’s Convention has some powerful provisions, regarding child health, including provisions for children with disabilities (CRC - Article 23), the rehabilitation of children in armed combat situations (CRC - Article 39), and state support when parents cannot care fully for children’s welfare (CRC – Articles 19 & 20). The increased emphasis upon women’s human rights both in regard to reproductive health and with respect to the access of health care also suggests that more people are receiving the rights due them.


IV. International and Regional Instruments of Protection

The following is a short list of organizations dedicated to giving aid to efforts aimed at determining and solving the health problems of the developing world and the poor in the developed world.


(All organizations listed in this section work internationally and are listed alphabetically)

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)

The FAO was established by the UN in 1945 to improve and increase agricultural production and help alleviate the problems of famine and malnutrition. The FAO provides assistance grants to states to help them increase their food production, and gives advice to states on efforts that can improve the productivity of their land and help to relieve the pressure of starvation in their country. 

The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria

Established by mandate of the UN in 2001, The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria serves to distribute funding to nationwide projects in countries with a high disease burden. Public, private, and governmental groups may apply for funding to facilitate the development and improvement of the health infrastructure within their country. Grant applications may involve partnership of public, private and governmental groups but all applications must be administered by a group within the country of interest and all applications must be targeted at improving treatment and prevention nationally for AIDS, tuberculosis, or malaria. 

United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF)

Established by mandate of the UN in 1946 UNICEF works to improve the welfare of children throughout the world. UNICEF promotes educational initiatives for children and helps to reduce child and infant mortality through direct intervention in countries where children suffer from disease, malnutrition and war. UNICEF funds and collaborates with government and non-profit groups to shape nations’ policies in favor of the welfare and health of children. 

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)

The UNHCR was established by UN mandate in 1950 to serve as the UN’s instrument for refugee protection. The UNHCR was an extension of a similar commission founded in 1921 by the League of Nations. Refugees’ access to health care is compromised because they are not citizens of the country in which they are forced to reside. Therefore, it falls upon the UNHCR to guarantee that the needs of displaced peoples are met regardless of their nation of origin or status within their nation or residence.  UNHCR works side by side with relief agencies and governments in attempts to improve the quality of life and safety of refugees. This is achieved through both efforts to reform policies in the refugee’s native country to make the return of the refugees possible, and also by providing direct response to emergencies.

 World Health Organization (WHO)

The WHO was established by UN mandate, in 1948, to ensure “the attainment by all peoples of the highest possible level of health.” The WHO defines health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” (  To this end, the WHO works to improve methods of health care and to create standards of health care for the international community. WHO also works to improve the capacity of health care organizations within the developing world, both by direct funding and by the facilitation of private-public partnerships. Finally, WHO maintains a position as the primary international organization responsible for monitoring and recording of global health statistics and trends. 


(All organizations listed in this section work internationally and are listed alphabetically)

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

The Gates Foundation, established by Bill and Melinda Gates in 2000, provides grants for a diverse array of public service projects, including global health initiatives such as the development of cheap and effective drugs. The foundation also provides grants to organizations, both public and private, for the improvement of health care system infrastructure, development of educational material regarding health, and development of novel and effective disease prevention methods.

International Committee of the Red Cross and Red Crescent (ICRC)

ICRC was established in 1863 directs the action of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movements. The organization owes its legitimacy from the ratifying parties of the 1864 Geneva Convention. ICRC functions in war time as an instrument of aid and care to both soldiers and civilians involved in or caught between conflicts. ICRC also participates in efforts to relieve the suffering of peoples outside of war whether through sending food to starving peoples or by providing medical care, equipment and drugs to those who need them. 

Oxfam International

Oxfam International was founded in 1942 and focuses its efforts on relieving famine and poverty through grassroots organization in over 100 countries. These efforts involve maintaining partnerships with over 3000 national and regional organizations.  While not specifically a health organization, Oxfam’s efforts to reduce famine, poverty, and war make substantial contributions towards improving international health.

Soros Foundations Network

The Soros Foundation, founded by George Soros, is a subgroup of the Open Society Initiative (OSI). The Soros Foundation promotes a variety of social justice initiatives that aim to improve health infrastructure, access to medicines, maternal and pre-natal care as well as care for terminal patients and the elderly. The foundation operates through regional OSI offices in 29 different countries.

Project HOPE

Project HOPE was established in 1958 by William B. Walsh M.D. Walsh created HOPE after observing poor health conditions in the South Pacific, in particular deaths of young children that could have been prevented via administration of simple medical knowledge and care. HOPE’s mission is to achieve sustainable advances in health care around the world by implementing health education programs, conducting health policy research, and providing humanitarian assistance in areas of need. 


International and Regional Instruments for Protection

International legal instruments take the form of a treaty (also called agreement, convention, and protocol) which may be binding on the contracting states. When negotiations are completed, the text of a treaty is established as authentic and definitive and is “signed” to that effect by the representatives of the states. There are various means by which a state expresses its consent to be bound by a treaty. The most common are ratification or accession. A new treaty is “ratified” by those states, which have negotiated the instrument. A state, which has not participated in the negotiations, may later “accede” to the treaty. The treaty enters into force when a pre-determined number of states have ratified or acceded to the treaty. When a state ratifies or accedes to a treaty, that state may make reservations to one or more articles of the treaty, unless reservations are prohibited by the treaty. Reservations may normally be withdrawn at any time. In some countries, international treaties take precedence over national law; in others, a specific law may be required to give an international treaty, although ratified or acceded to, the force of a national law. Practically all states that have ratified or acceded to an international treaty must issue decrees, amend existing laws or introduce new legislation in order for the treaty to be fully effective on the national territory.

The following international and regional treaties determine standards for the protection of the right to adequate health:



(Documents ratified by the United Nations and applying to the international community)

Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948)

The declaration sets forth a standard under which the right to adequate health can be understood. Article 25 “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care…”

The documents below advance the message of Article 25 in the Universal Declaration of Health. These documents identify groups particularly disadvantaged in regard to the right to adequate health. The documents also further articulate the precise needs of all people worldwide. 

International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (1966)

The convention reaffirms the universal protection of the right to adequate health and proscribes deprivation or rights based upon race. 

Consider Article 5, which affirms, regardless of race, “The right to public health, medical care, social security and social service”.

International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1966)

This convention guarantees all workers the right to health care and to safety as well as protection of employment during maternity leave.

Article 7 “Safe and healthy working conditions”

Article 10 “Special protection should be accorded to mothers during a reasonable period before and after childbirth…” Also “…Children and young persons should be protected from economic and social exploitation. Their employment in work harmful to their morals or health or dangerous to life or likely to hamper their normal development should be punishable by law…”

Article 12 “The States Parties to the present Covenant recognize the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health. The steps to be taken by the States Parties to the present Covenant to achieve the full realization of this right shall include those necessary for: The provision for the reduction of the stillbirth-rate and of infant mortality and for the healthy development of the child; The improvement of all aspects of environmental and industrial hygiene; The prevention, treatment and control of epidemic, endemic, occupational and other diseases; The creation of conditions which would assure to all medical service and medical attention in the event of sickness.”

Declaration on the Rights of Mentally Retarded Persons (1971)

This convention reaffirms the universal protection of the right to adequate health and mandates proper care be provided for the mentally retarded. The convention also stipulates that the mentally retarded should receive aid that allows them to reach their full potential as human beings.

“The mentally retarded person has a right to proper medical care and physical therapy and to such education, training, rehabilitation and guidance as will enable him to develop his ability and maximum potential”

Universal Declaration on the Eradication of Hunger and Malnutrition (1974)

This declaration establishes the right of all people to nutrition and sustenance sufficient to ensure their well-being.

Every man, woman and child has the inalienable right to be free from hunger and malnutrition in order to develop fully and maintain their physical and mental faculties… It is a fundamental responsibility of Governments to work together for higher food production and a more equitable and efficient distribution of food between countries and within countries. Governments should initiate immediately a greater concerted attack on chronic malnutrition and deficiency diseases among the vulnerable and lower income groups… All States should strive to the utmost to readjust, where appropriate, their agricultural policies to give priority to food production, recognizing, in this connection the interrelationship between the world food problem and international trade.”

Declaration on the Rights of Disabled Persons (1975)

This declaration reaffirms the universal protection of the right to adequate health and establishes that the disabled have the right to receive the special care they need.

 “Disabled persons have the right to medical, psychological and functional treatment, including prosthetic and orthetic appliances, to medical and social rehabilitation, education, vocational training and rehabilitation, aid, counseling, placement services and other services which will enable them to develop their capabilities and skills to the maximum and will hasten the processes of their social integration or reintegration.”

Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (1979)

This convention reaffirms the universal protection of the right to adequate health and details the special protections and considerations due to women. 

Article 10 - “Access to specific educational information to help to ensure the health and well-being of families, including information and advice on family planning.”

 Article 11 - “The right to protection of health and to safety in working conditions, including the safeguarding of the function of reproduction.” Also “To provide special protection to women during pregnancy in types of work proved to be harmful to them.”

Article 12 - “States Parties shall take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women in the field of health care in order to ensure, on a basis of equality of men and women, access to health care services, including those related to family planning.” Also “…States Parties shall ensure to women appropriate services in connection with pregnancy, confinement and the post-natal period, granting free services where necessary, as well as adequate nutrition during pregnancy and lactation.” 

Article 14 - “To have access to adequate health care facilities, including information, counseling and services in family planning.”

Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (1987)

This convention mandates that no person shall be subject to torture by the state or with its consent or acquiescence to the use of terror by a non-government group.

Article 2 - “Each State Party shall take effective legislative, administrative, judicial or other measures to prevent acts of torture in any territory under its jurisdiction.”

Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989)

This convention reaffirms the universal protection of the right to adequate health and proclaims that children are citizens of the state and, as such, are human beings guaranteed the rights specified in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Article 6 - “States Parties recognize that every child has the inherent right to life.” Also “States Parties shall ensure to the maximum extent possible the survival and development of the child”

Article 19 - “States Parties shall take all appropriate legislative, administrative, social and educational measures to protect the child from all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment or exploitation, including sexual abuse, while in the care of parent(s), legal guardian(s) or any other person who has the care of the child.”

Article 20 – “A child temporarily or permanently deprived of his or her family environment, or in whose own best interests cannot be allowed to remain in that environment, shall be entitled to special protection and assistance provided by the State. States Parties shall in accordance with their national laws ensure alternative care for such a child. Such care could include, inter alia, foster placement, kafalah of Islamic law, adoption or if necessary placement in suitable institutions for the care of children. When considering solutions, due regard shall be paid to the desirability of continuity in a child's upbringing and to the child's ethnic, religious, cultural and linguistic background.”

Article 23 – “States Parties recognize that a mentally or physically disabled child should enjoy a full and decent life, in conditions which ensure dignity, promote self-reliance and facilitate the child's active participation in the community. States Parties recognize the right of the disabled child to special care and shall encourage and ensure the extension, subject to available resources, to the eligible child and those responsible for his or her care, of assistance for which application is made and which is appropriate to the child's condition and to the circumstances of the parents or others caring for the child. Recognizing the special needs of a disabled child, assistance extended in accordance with paragraph 2 of the present article shall be provided free of charge, whenever possible, taking into account the financial resources of the parents or others caring for the child, and shall be designed to ensure that the disabled child has effective access to and receives education, training, health care services, rehabilitation services, preparation for employment and recreation opportunities in a manner conducive to the child's achieving the fullest possible social integration and individual development, including his or her cultural and spiritual development. States Parties shall promote, in the spirit of international cooperation, the exchange of appropriate information in the field of preventive health care and of medical, psychological and functional treatment of disabled children, including dissemination of and access to information concerning methods of rehabilitation, education and vocational services, with the aim of enabling States Parties to improve their capabilities and skills and to widen their experience in these areas. In this regard, particular account shall be taken of the needs of developing countries.”

Article 24 - “States Parties recognize the right of the child to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health and to facilities for the treatment of illness and rehabilitation of health. States Parties shall strive to ensure that no child is deprived of his or her right of access to such health care services. States Parties shall pursue full implementation of this right and, in particular, shall take appropriate measures: To diminish infant and child mortality; To ensure the provision of necessary medical assistance and health care to all children with emphasis on the development of primary health care; To combat disease and malnutrition, including within the framework of primary health care, through, inter alia, the application of readily available technology and through the provision of adequate nutritious foods and clean drinking-water, taking into consideration the dangers and risks of environmental pollution; To ensure appropriate pre-natal and post-natal health care for mothers; To ensure that all segments of society, in particular parents and children, are informed, have access to education and are supported in the use of basic knowledge of child health and nutrition, the advantages of breastfeeding, hygiene and environmental sanitation and the prevention of accidents; To develop preventive health care, guidance for parents and family planning education and services. States Parties shall take all effective and appropriate measures with a view to abolishing traditional practices prejudicial to the health of children. States Parties undertake to promote and encourage international co-operation with a view to achieving progressively the full realization of the right recognized in the present article. In this regard, particular account shall be taken of the needs of developing countries.”

Principles for the Protection of Persons with Mental Illness and the Improvement of Mental Health Care (1991)

This declaration provides that care for mental health will be subsumed within the general health and welfare system:

“All persons have the right to the best available mental health care, which shall be part of the health and social care system.”


(The documents below are binding upon the nations who are members of each of the groups listed below)


The American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man (1948)

This declaration serves as the basic guidance document of the OAS concerning human rights within each member nation. It establishes the rights of all citizens to adequate care and gives special consideration to the needs of women and children.

Article 7 - “All women, during pregnancy and the nursing period, and all children have the right to special protection, care and aid.”

Article 11 - “Every person has the right to the preservation of his health through sanitary and social measures relating to food, clothing, housing and medical care, to the extent permitted by public and community resources.”

AFRICAN UNION (Formerly the Organization of African Unity)

The African Charter on Human and People’s Rights (1979)

This charter is the basic human rights guidance document of the African Union and establishes the right to adequate health of all Africans and the protection of all Africans from conditions and treatment deleterious to their health.

Article 4 - “…Every human being shall be entitled to respect for his life and the integrity of his person.”

Article 5 - “…All forms of exploitation and degradation of man particularly slavery, slave trade, torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment and treatment shall be prohibited.”

Article 16 - “Every individual shall have the right to enjoy the best attainable state of physical and mental health. States Parties to the present Charter shall take the necessary measures to protect the health of their people and to ensure that they receive medical attention when they are sick.”

Article 18 - “…The state shall ensure the elimination of every discrimination against women and also ensure the protection of the rights of the woman and the child as stipulated in international declarations and conventions. The aged and the disabled shall also have the right to special measures of protection in keeping with their physical or moral needs.”

African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (1990)

This charter outlines the basic rights of the African child, including provisions describing the health care and health care protection needed by children.

Article 5 - “Every child has an inherent right to life. This right shall be protected by law. States Parties to the present Charter shall ensure, to the maximum extent possible, the survival, protection and development of the child.  Death sentence shall not be pronounced for crimes committed by children.”

Article 11 - “…The promotion of the child’s understanding of primary health care.”

Article 13 - “Every child who is mentally or physically disabled shall have the right to special measures of protection in keeping with his physical and moral needs and under conditions which ensure his dignity, promote his self-reliance and active participation in the community.”

Article 14 - “Every child shall have the right to enjoy the best attainable state of physical, mental and spiritual health. States Parties to the present Charter shall undertake to pursue the full implementation of this right and in particular shall take measures: to reduce infant and child morality rate; to ensure the provision of necessary medical assistance and health care to all children with emphasis on the development of primary health care; to ensure the provision of adequate nutrition and safe drinking water; to combat disease and malnutrition within the framework of primary health care through the application of appropriate technology; to ensure appropriate health care for expectant and nursing mothers; to develop preventive health care and family life education and provision of service; to integrate basic health service programmes in national development plans; to ensure that all sectors of the society, in particular, parents, children, community leaders and community workers are informed and supported in the use of basic knowledge of child health and nutrition, the advantages of breastfeeding, hygiene and environmental sanitation and the prevention of domestic and other accidents; to ensure the meaningful participation of non-governmental organizations, local communities and the beneficiary population in the planning and management of a basic service programme for children; to support through technical and financial means, the mobilization of local community resources in the development of primary health care for children.”

Article 15 - “…promote the dissemination of information on the hazards of child labour to all sectors of the community.”

Article 16 - “States Parties to the present Charter shall take specific legislative, administrative, social and educational measures to protect the child from all forms of torture, inhuman or degrading treatment and especially physical or mental injury or abuse, neglect or maltreatment including sexual abuse, while in the care of the child. Protective measures under this Article shall include effective procedures for the establishment of special monitoring units to provide necessary support for the child and for those who have the care of the child, as well as other forms of prevention and for identification, reporting referral investigation, treatment, and follow-up of instances of child abuse and neglect.”

Article 17 - “…ensure that no child who is detained or imprisoned or otherwise deprived of his/her liberty is subjected to torture, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment…”

Article 21 - “States Parties to the present Charter shall take all appropriate measures to eliminate harmful social and cultural practices affecting the welfare, dignity, normal growth and development of the child and in particular: those customs and practices prejudicial to the health or life of the child…”

Article 27 - “States Parties to the present Charter shall undertake to protect the child from all forms of sexual exploitation and sexual abuse and shall in particular take measures to prevent: the inducement, coercion or encouragement of a child to engage in any sexual activity; the use of children in prostitution or other sexual practices; the use of children in pornographic activities, performances and materials.”

Article 28 - “States Parties to the present Charter shall take all appropriate measures to protect the child from the use of narcotics and illicit use of psychotropic substances as defined in the relevant international treaties, and to prevent the use of children in the production and trafficking of such substances.”


Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (1950)

This convention is a guidance document that establishes the basic rights of all European citizens including protection from actions and conditions deleterious to good health.

Article 2 - “Everyone's right to life shall be protected by law. No one shall be deprived of his life intentionally save in the execution of a sentence of a court following his conviction of a crime for which this penalty is provided by law.”

Article 3 - “No one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”

Article 4 - “No one shall be held in slavery or servitude.”

V. Advocacy, Educational and Training Resources

For Advocates

Chapter XVII: Monitoring Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (in: Training Manual on Human Rights Monitoring, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights)

This chapter provides practical guidance for monitoring the status of the rights of citizens with respect to a variety of economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to adequate health.

Chapter X: Monitoring and Protecting the Human Rights of Refugees and/or Internally Displaced Persons Living in Camps (in: Training Manual on Human Rights Monitoring, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights) and Chapter XI: Monitoring and Protecting the Human Rights of Returnees and Internally Displaced Persons (in: Training Manual on Human Rights Monitoring, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights)

These chapters provide practical guidelines for monitoring the status of the rights (including the right to adequate health) of displaced and returning.

For Volunteers

One World Jobs and Volunteers

Since 1995, has helped thousands of people find jobs and volunteer positions in the NGO and development sector. The site allows you a user friendly format to search for jobs and volunteer positions in numerous countries around the world.

East Africa Medical Assistance Foundation

The East Africa Medical Assistance Foundation is a volunteer nonprofit organization based in North Oaks, Minnesota. The organization is dedicated to recruiting volunteers to provide medical education and training, medical equipment, and medical care in East Africa, and to raising funds to help support the efforts of the organization.

VSO Global Volunteer Database

VSO is the largest independent volunteer-sending agency in the world. Since 1958, VSO has sent more than 29,000 volunteers to work in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, the Pacific region and, more recently, Eastern Europe. At the moment there around 1,500 VSO volunteers working in these regions. VSO manages volunteers from an ever increasing range of countries, backgrounds and ages. Instead of sending food or money, VSO sends women and men from a wide range of professions who want the chance to make a difference in the fight against poverty. These volunteers work in partnership with colleagues and communities to share skills and learning to achieve change and commit to long-term development goals which focus on sustainable development rather than the short-term relief of certain problems.

International Medical Corps

Established in 1984 by volunteer United States doctors and nurses, IMC is a private, voluntary, nonpolitical, nonsectarian organization. Its mission is to improve the quality of life through health interventions and related activities that build local capacity in areas worldwide which few organizations serve

International Volunteer Programs Association

IVPA is an alliance of nonprofit and nongovernmental associations, primarily in the Americas. IVPA is a directory for agencies and organizations looking for volunteers worldwide.

For Teachers

UNICEF - ID puzzle

The identity puzzle shows how the rights of a child—including the right to adequate health—are denied by refusal to recognize their citizenship.

VI. Other Resources & Links

Pathfinder International 

For 45 years, Pathfinder International has supported high quality family planning and reproductive health services that improve the lives of women, men, and children throughout the developing world. Working in 23 countries throughout Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, and Asia and the Near East, Pathfinder is committed to making family planning and reproductive health services available to all who want them.  By partnering with local governments and grassroots organizations, Pathfinder creates innovative programs that are responsive to the health needs of individual communities. 

International Development Research Center

The International Development Research Center is a public corporation created by the Parliament of Canada in 1970 to help developing countries use science and technology to find practical, long-term solutions to the social, economic, and environmental problems they face. Support is directed toward developing an indigenous research capacity to sustain policies and technologies developing countries need to build healthier, more equitable, and more prosperous societies.

Freedom from Hunger

Freedom from Hunger is an international development organization working in sixteen countries across the globe. Freedom from Hunger brings innovative and sustainable self-help solutions to the fight against chronic hunger and poverty. Established in 1946, Freedom from Hunger began as Meals for Millions, the organization that developed and introduced Multi-Purpose Food, a high-protein powdered food supplement still used today in relief efforts around the world. In the 1970s, Freedom from Hunger shifted their focus to implementing Applied Nutrition Programs, focusing almost exclusively on the health and nutrition of mothers and children.

Africa's Right to Health Campaign: Background on Africa's Health

This site has links to key sites and documents relevant to Africa's health. It is a starting point for additional information on global and African health issues, on women's health, and on diseases particularly important in Africa such as HIV/AIDS, malaria, and river blindness.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is recognized as the lead US federal agency for protecting the health and safety of people in the US and abroad. The centers provide credible information to enhance health decisions and promote health through strong partnerships. CDC serves as the national leader for developing and applying disease prevention and control, environmental health, and health promotion and education activities designed to improve the health of the people of the United States.

Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) U.S. Web Site

Médecins Sans Frontières (also known as Doctors Without Borders or MSF) delivers emergency aid to victims of armed conflict, epidemics, natural and man-made disasters, and to those who lack health care due to social or geographical isolation. MSF was founded in 1971 by a small group of French doctors who believed that all people have the right to medical care regardless of race, religion, creed or political affiliation, and that the needs of these people supersede respect for national borders. It was the first non-governmental organization to both provide emergency medical assistance and to give public witness to the plight of the populations they served.

The Human Right to Health (University of Dayton Law School)

The Human Right to Health web page outlines the basic definition of a “Human’s Right to Health Care” and relates it to the UN Declaration of Human Rights. The site also includes syllabi on AIDS, American health care law, bioterrorism, tobacco, violence and public health. This site also contains excerpts from UN documents as well as helpful links to related sites.

Pan American Health Organization (PAHO)

The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) is an international public health agency with 100 years of experience working to improve health and living standards of the people of the Americas. PAHO is based in Washington, D.C., and has scientific and technical experts at its headquarters, in its 27 country offices, and its eight scientific centers, all working with the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean in dealing with priority health issues. The Organization's essential mission is to strengthen national and local health systems and improve the health of the peoples of the Americas, in collaboration with Ministries of Health, other government and international agencies, nongovernmental organizations, universities, social security agencies, community groups, and many others.


CARE is one of the world's largest private international humanitarian organizations and is committed to helping families in poor communities improve their lives and to achieve lasting victories over poverty. Founded in 1945 to provide relief to survivors of World War II, CARE quickly became a trusted vehicle for the compassion and generosity of millions. CARE partners with a multitude of local, national and international organizations but is not managed by any government agency or religious group—hence CARE enjoys an independence which affords flexibility and credibility wherever and with whomever the agency works with.


USAID has always had the twofold purpose of furthering America's foreign policy interests in expanding democracy and free markets while improving the lives of the citizens of the developing world. USAID works around the world to achieve these goals, spending less than one-half of 1 percent of the US federal budget in the process. 

Healthlink World Wide

This database provides practical publication both in electronic and printed form.

Doctors of the World-USA

Doctors of the World mobilizes the health sector to promote and protect human rights in order to ensure that all people receive the following rights: the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, equality before the law, and to be free from torture. In collaboration with a network of affiliates around the world and in partnership with local communities, Doctors of the World works where health is diminished or endangered by violations of human rights and civil liberties.

World Bank

The World Bank is one of the world's largest sources of development assistance. Its primary focus is on helping the poorest people and the poorest countries. The World Bank site provides an overview of how the Bank uses its financial resources, its staff, and its extensive knowledge to help developing countries onto paths of stable, sustainable, and equitable growth. The site also has thousands of documents and reports available for online use.

Global Health Council (GHC)

The Global Health Council is the world's largest membership alliance dedicated to saving lives by improving health throughout the world. The Global Health Council, formerly the National Council of International Health, is a U.S.-based, nonprofit membership organization that was created in 1972 to identify priority world health problems and to report on them to the U.S. public, legislators, international and domestic government agencies, academic institutions and the global health community. GHC has a diverse membership comprised of health-care professionals and organizations that include NGOs, foundations, corporations, government agencies and academic institutions that work to ensure global health for all.

Physicians For Human Rights

Since 1986, PHR members have worked to stop torture, disappearances, and political killings by governments and opposition groups; to improve health and sanitary conditions in prisons and detention centers; to investigate the physical and psychological consequences of violations of humanitarian law in internal and international conflicts; to defend medical neutrality and the right of civilians and combatants to receive medical care during times of war; to protect health professionals who are victims of violations of human rights; and to prevent medical complicity in torture and other abuses.


Eds. Eide, A. Alfredsson, G. Melander, A. Rehof, LA. Rosas, A. with collaboration of Swinehart, T. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights: A Commentary. P.385-404. Scandinavian University Press 1992. 

World Health Organization. The World Health Report 2002: Reducing Risks, Promoting Healthy Life.  

Matthews, TJ. Marian, MS. MacDorman, F. and Menacker, F. “Infant Mortality Statistics from the 1999 Period Linked Birth/Infant Death Data Set” National Vital Statistics Report. 20(4):1-9. 2002 Jan.

Anonymous. Uganda gives lessons in stemming the AIDS epidemic. [Editorial] Nature Medicine. 5(9):963, 1999 Sep.

World Health Organization. Global Tuberculosis Control: Surveillance, Planning, Financing. WHO Report 2002. Geneva, Switzerland, WHO/CDS/TB/2002.295

Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) Avoidance of discrimination against women in national strategies for the prevention and control of acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS): 03/02/90. CEDAW General recommendation. 15 A/45/38. 1990.


Developed by David Almeida and Robert Berlin. Dr. Kirk Allison, Dr. Amos Deinard, Dr. Bryan Dowd, Nancy Flowers, Ian Harrison, Audrey Maretzki, Kristi Rudelius-Palmer, and David Weissbrodt revised and edited the text.

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