Abstract – Will the struggle for health equity and social justice be best served by a Framework Convention on Global Health?

Leigh Haynes, David Legge, Leslie London, David McCoy, David Sanders, Claudio Schuftan

Health and Human Rights 15/1

Published June 2013


The idea of a Framework Convention for Global Health (FCGH), using the treaty-making powers of the World Health Organization (WHO), has been promoted as an opportunity to advance global health equity and the right to health. The idea has promise, but needs more thought regarding risks, obstacles, and strategies. The reform of global health governance must be based on a robust analysis of the political economy out of which the drivers of inequality and the denial of the right to health arise. Some of the published commentary has focused on using the proposed FCGH to institutionalize a paradigm change regarding international aid for health care, i.e., reconceptualizing such aid as obligatory, based on human solidarity rather than strategic considerations, based on global stability and national security. We warn against limiting the project to questions of inter-governmental financial transfers because of the risk of neglecting the underlying structural determinants of health injustice. Such neglect would help to legitimize an unjust and unsustainable global economic regime. We raise further questions about the strategic logic informing any campaign for a FCGH. The governments of the United States and Europe have put considerable effort into weakening WHO through tight donor controls, and it would require heavy pressure to persuade them to sign on to a FCGH. Generating such pressure would require strong popular mobilization around the local and diverse priorities of different communities across the globe, and recognition of a common need for effective regulation at the global level. We argue for a broad-based campaign from which the need for more effective global health regulation (and a FCGH) would emerge as a common theme arising from myriad more specific claims. This type of campaign would respond to local needs, and would also be understood within a global, political, and economic perspective.