Editor-in-Chief Paul Farmer died in his sleep, in Rwanda, on February 21. It is with great sadness that we write this news, remembering our leader at the Journal, a man deeply committed to human rights and health, to exposing and overcoming the inequities all too obvious in global health.
Paul took over as Editor-in-Chief in 2008, bringing a commitment to Health and Human Rights Journal that it would become an open access journal, ensuring people everywhere in the world could access all the papers and at no cost to them. He had a vision and enthusiasm for the Journal to be a voice and a platform for people so often unheard. He brought an understanding that the neoliberal era had made lives harder for marginalised and poor people, and for whom he fought. He wrote,
People actually living in “resource-poor settings” do not clamor for “cost effective” solutions to their problems; they want first and foremost effective solutions. They want equitable access to health, educational, and other services. And that is, or should be, our specialty. We might not know how to grow national or transnational economies, but we do know how to protect the health of the poor. This is the specific background that my colleagues and I bring to our stewardship of Health and Human Rights. This is what prompts us to affirm that the journal’s vocation lies in challenging — through conceptual analysis and practical action — the interlocking orthodoxies that defraud poor people of the minimal requirements for a healthy life, while fortifying privileged minorities in their lifestyles of lavish excess. The editors who led HHR through its first decade, Jonathan Mann and Sofia Gruskin, understood the journal’s mission in very much this way. They created a forum in which received ideas in public health, political economy, and rights discourse have been subjected to probing scrutiny. For ten years, HHR has disentangled conceptual complexities around the right to health; interrogated injustices and proposed pragmatic solutions; and facilitated a conversation on human rights practice that has increasingly engaged voices from poor communities on the front lines of rights struggles. In taking up the editorship of HHR, our aspiration is to continue and reinforce this effort.
Paul’s life ended suddenly, aged only 62. This adds to the shock we are all experiencing, that someone who has been ‘larger than life’, who has contributed so very much to global health and in so many other spheres, is no longer with us. His legacy lives on in so many global health projects around the world, as it will in the Journal.