Abstract – Traditional/alternative medicines and the right to health: Key elements for a convention on global health

Emmanuel Kabengele Mpinga, Tshimungu Kandolo, Henk Verloo, Ngoyi K. Zacharie Bukonda, Ngianga-Bakwin Kandala, Philippe Chastonay


Little has been done to investigate and promote the importance of non-conventional medicines (NCMs) in the realization of the right to health, yet all over the world people regularly resort to NCMs to secure healing or to prevent or mitigate the occurrence of a wide range of morbidities. This study aims to elucidate the theoretical framework of the role of NCMs in realizing the right to health, to identify the potential manifestations and causes of violations of the right to health in their practice, and to propose the practice of NCMs that could be included in a Framework Convention on Global Health.

We use both the documentary analysis and the violation of rights approaches. Through a non-directive review of the literature, we have tried to clarify the concepts and uniqueness of NCMs. We have also tried to unveil the challenges facing NCMs in a context where conventional medicines assume extensive power. The human rights approach has enabled us to bring to light the potential challenges to the rights of the various stakeholders that NCMs create.

We argue that NCMs can contribute to realizing the right to health through their availability, accessibility, acceptability, and relative quality. The Framework Convention on Global Health could contribute to the effective realization of this right by integrating basic principles to ensure the recognition, protection, promotion, and conservation of NCMs—at least of those NCMs that have shown evidence of efficacy—as well as catalyzing increased international cooperation in this area.