Upcoming Special Sections

All issues publish general papers in addition to Special Sections
Paul Farmer’s Legacy: A Collection 
Compulsory Drug Treatment and Rehabilitation, Health, and Human Rights, June 2022 
Apartheid, (De)colonization, and the Palestinian Right to Health, December 2022


Paul Farmer’s Legacy: A Collection

Paul Farmer 1959-2022

We invite contributions on the theme of “Paul Farmer’s Legacy”. In memory and celebration of our Editor-in-Chief Paul Farmer, we invite contributions to an online collection that honors his legacy in global health, human rights, equality and dignity.

We welcome personal reflections, comments on Paul’s work and writing, and commentaries on the ways in which Paul shaped global health. Essays are encouraged that look to the future and anticipate Paul’s legacy in promoting health and human rights. Paul worked as a clinician, a medical anthropologist, a professor, an NGO leader, and a humanitarian. We anticipate the collection will cover any and all of these endeavours, and like his work, will keep human rights to the fore.

All contributions will be reviewed for suitability by the editors. Contributors are encouraged to be creative in their responses, with the editors being open to photographs, poems, or other artistic expressions. Essays should be 1500-3000 words.

The collection will become a permanent testament to Paul and his work and remain available as part of the Journal’s archive.

Please email your submissions with a subject title “Paul Farmer’s Legacy” to hhrsubmissions@hsph.harvard.edu.

June 2022

Compulsory Drug Treatment and Rehabilitation, Health, and Human Rights

Guest Editors: Claudia Stoicescu, Karen Peters, and Quinten Lataire

The involuntary commitment or compulsory detention of individuals in the name of drug dependence treatment and rehabilitation persists as a common aspect of drug control in a range of settings around the world. Compulsory treatment and rehabilitation, which often occurs without sufficient due process, legal safeguards, or judicial review, continues to be implemented, and scaled up, despite repeated calls by the United Nations to permanently close and immediately release people held in compulsory facilities for people who use drugs because of their violation of human rights.[1] Accumulating evidence demonstrates their ineffectiveness across a range of health, social, and economic outcomes, including the lack of effective treatment for drug dependence, harm reduction, and HIV and viral hepatitis prevention, treatment, and care services. Calls to close down such facilities were reinforced by the July 2021 study of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights. The study documenting wide-ranging health and human rights violations in drug detention facilities in several countries, including “deaths…due to severe beatings”, “painful, unmedicated withdrawal, beatings, military drills, verbal abuse, and sometimes scientific experimentation without informed consent” and “forced labour”.[2]

It is now widely acknowledged that structural determinants such as economic disadvantage, stigma and discrimination, unemployment, inadequate housing, community disempowerment, and criminalizing laws and policies shape risks associated with and inform responses to drug use and dependence. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development promotes the prioritization of people, health, and human rights. In order to attain these goals, evidence-based drug policy-making is a necessary enabler of sustainable development across all income levels. In support of the Sustainable Development Goals, the United Nations common position on drug-related matters adopted in November 2018 by 31 United Nations agencies urges countries to reform and repeal “laws, policies and practices that threaten the health and human rights of people”, including compulsory treatment and rehabilitation. In March 2019, the UNODC-led United Nations System Coordination Task Team on the Implementation of the UN Common Position concluded that “a major obstacle to accessibility of treatment is the criminalization of personal use and possession of drugs for other than medical and scientific purposes” and unambiguously encouraged states to promote alternatives to conviction and punishment including the decriminalization of drug possession for personal use, and promotion of the principle of proportionality.

In response to allegations of rights violations and as part of efforts to enhance their structural responses to drug use and dependence, several countries have made commitments to transition from compulsory responses to drug use and dependence toward community-based treatment approaches. This approach refers to a continuum of services from community outreach, brief interventions, and psychosocial counselling to rehabilitation and social reintegration provided in the community to meet individuals where they are at and address the spectrum of issues that they may face.[3] In particular, at the Third Regional Consultation on Compulsory Facilities for People Who Use Drugs in East and Southeast Asia in 2015, countries acknowledged the need to support voluntary community-based treatment, harm reduction and support services through the implementation of a transitional framework consisting of three pillars of (1) establishing national multi-sectoral transition committee and action plans to instigate the transition; (2) reforming drug laws to foster an enabling policy environment, and (3) strengthening resilience, building capacity, and adequately resourcing health systems.[4] Despite these rhetorical commitments, the transition from compulsory drug treatment to community-based alternatives has been slow, with voluntary community-based responses to drug dependence emerging in parallel to, rather than replacing, compulsory systems in many settings.

Critical analysis on the effectiveness, cost-effectiveness, and human rights implications of compulsory and voluntary drug dependence treatment in low- and middle-income settings is needed to inform policy-making and accelerate a decisive shift away from punitive approaches to drug dependence treatment. Such evidence is especially urgent at this crucial juncture when many countries are starting to acknowledge the failure of zero-tolerance responses and their impact on society, in particular on prison overcrowding. At the same time, the UN Common Position has created unprecedented momentum for shifting global discourse and approaching drug-related issues from health, sustainable development, and human rights perspectives.

This special section aims to examine and characterize at regional, national, or institutional levels the current use and human rights consequences of involuntary commitment or compulsory detention of people who use drugs and the development of voluntary, community-based alternatives. We welcome papers that examine advocacy efforts seeking to expedite the transition from compulsory treatment and rehabilitation modalities toward voluntary community-based responses. We invite contributions spanning cross-cutting themes such as international law, harm reduction and health promotion, medical ethics, alternatives to conviction and punishment for drug-related offences, and criminal justice. We are particularly interested in papers that go beyond describing existing harms associated with compulsory treatment to identifying critical leverage points and structural factors that could address the most pressing challenges to the expansion of voluntary evidence- and rights-based services.

While not an exhaustive list, we welcome multidisciplinary contributions that address the following topics in relation to the obligations of states and the rights of people who use drugs:

  • Country case studies on national experiences of transitioning from compulsory drug treatment and rehabilitation and promising voluntary alternatives
  • Evaluations and case studies of fidelity in the practice of voluntary, community-based treatment programmes
  • How international frameworks and global organizations address, or can better address, health and human rights issues related to compulsory treatment and rehabilitation
  • Critical commentaries on the definition and indicators related to compulsory and voluntary drug dependence treatment
  • Applying international human rights standards to compulsory drug treatment and rehabilitation
  • Strategic litigation around compulsory drug treatment and rehabilitation
  • Evidence-based drug treatment for people with dependence on stimulants, particularly amphetamine-type substances
  • Evidence-based treatment and care services as alternatives to conviction and punishment
  • Establishing evidence-based drug thresholds; effectiveness and cost-effectiveness studies of compulsory and/or voluntary community-based drug dependence treatment; analysis of health and human rights implications related to private and other non-state-run facilities that employ compulsory and punitive modalities.

Submission details

  • Papers must be submitted by 31 January 2022
  • Full papers have a maximum word length of 7,000 words, including references. We also invite Perspective Essays of up to 3000 words, including references, and Viewpoints of between 900-1500 words, including references, on this topic.
  • Author guidelines are available here.

Questions about this special section and outline abstracts can be directed to Claudia Stoicescu, Columbia University (cs4159@columbia.edu); Karen Peters, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Regional Office for Southeast Asia and the Pacific (karen.peters@un.org); Quinten Lataire, The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) Regional Support Team for Asia and the Pacific (LataireQ@unaids.org); or Joe Amon, Senior Editor, Health and Human Rights Journal (jja88@drexel.edu).


[1]        United Nations (2012) Joint Statement: compulsory drug detention and rehabilitation centers. Available at: https://files.unaids.org/en/media/unaids/contentassets/documents/document/2012/JC2310_Joint%20Statement6March12FINAL_en.pdf; United Nations (2020) Joint Statement on Compulsory Drug Detention and Rehabilitation Centres in Asia and the Pacific in the context of COVID-19. Available at: https://unaidsapnew.files.wordpress.com/2020/05/unjointstatement1june2020.pdf
[2]        OHCHR Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, 2021, Available at: https://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Detention/Pages/Detention-and-drug-policies.aspx.
[3]        See United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) (2014). Guidance for Community-Based Treatment and Care Services for People Affected by Drug Use and Dependence in Southeast Asia. Bangkok. Available at: www.unodc.org/documents/drug-treatment/UNODC_cbtx_guidance_EN.pdf; and United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), and World Health Organization (WHO) (2008). Principles of Drug Dependence Treatment. Geneva. Available at www.unodc.org/documents/drug-treatment/UNODC-WHO-Principles-of-Drug-Dependence-Treatment-March08.pdf.
[4]        UNODC, ESCAP, UNAIDS (2015) Report of the Third Regional Consultation on Compulsory Centres for Drug Users in Asia and the Pacific. Manila, Philippines. Available at: https://unaidsapnew.files.wordpress.com/2015/12/report-of-the-third-regional-consultation-on-ccdus-in-asia-and-the-pacific-21-23-september-2015.pdf.




Apartheid, (De)colonization, and the Palestinian Right to Health

Guest Editors: Yara Asi, Weeam Hammoudeh, David Mills, Osama Tanous, Bram Wispelwey

In recent years, considerable academic attention has been focused on settler colonialism, a distinct type of colonialism that relies primarily on the elimination – rather than the exploitation – of indigenous peoples in the quest to appropriate their land for the creation of a separate and expanding settler polity. Settler colonialism’s ongoing structural manifestations in Palestine/Israel have been extensively analyzed by a new generation of Palestinian scholars over the last decade. This framework has the advantage of more comprehensively explicating the lack of civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights of Palestinians throughout the region, whether they are citizens of Israel, living stateless in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt), or ensconced in refugee camps in neighboring countries.

One of the well-described manifestations of settler colonial domination is the system of apartheid. The prolonged mass depopulation and slaughter that characterized other settler colonial settings, including North American and Australia, did not occur to the same extent in historic Palestine, where the settler state instead developed (and the international community has allowed) an intricate system of apartheid to fragment, control, and contain the Palestinian people who still make up one half of the population within Israel and the oPt. This fragmentation is frequently reinforced in the academic literatures where Palestinian health is framed as ‘refugee health’ for Palestinians in neighboring Arab countries, ‘conflict and health’ for those in the oPt, and ‘minority health’ for the Palestinians in Israel. The health of Palestinians is thus often excluded from the growing literature on indigenous health and the health impacts of colonization.

Decades after Palestinians and some international observers recognized the apartheid reality, preeminent international and Israeli human rights organizations, including B’Tselem, Yesh Din, and Human Rights Watch, have recently joined the growing consensus that Israel’s regime fulfills the definition. This regime operates in the oPt as well as in Israel itself, utilizing historical and contemporary means of structural and institutional racism to operationalize its efforts, where Palestinians lack equal rights and face numerous forms of discrimination codified under law, including limitations on housing and employment. Palestinians experience multiple forms of cultural and structural violence daily, but are also regularly exposed to direct violence, including the killing of hundreds of adults and children by settlers, police, and military forces in 2021 alone. If these violations and violence are acknowledged by Israel and its allies, the common justification is security, an invariable trope of all settler colonies in seeking legitimacy for their policies of expansion and dispossession.

Extensive efforts by Palestinian, Israeli, and international human rights organizations have demonstrated the power of a human right-based approach (HRBA) in linking the political sphere to Palestinian health access and outcomes. Whether analyzing military checkpoints, the permit regime for health access in the oPt, late night home invasions, torture, home and village demolitions, or the detaining of children without charge, the HRBA has been essential to both documenting rights violations and forming the bedrock of international advocacy. To date, however, the HRBA has remained largely separate from, if not inimical to, a settler colonial framing.

This special section aims to explore the conceptual and material connections between settler colonialism, including manifestations like apartheid and the logic of elimination, and Palestinians’ right to health. Of special interest are papers that examine/identify:

  • The implications of integrating a framework of apartheid, settler colonialism, or structural racism with the HRBA to Palestinian health and wellbeing
  • Decolonial and/or anticolonial means of achieving the right to health within the current Palestinian context
  • The role of international organizations, donors, and third states in maintaining or weakening Palestinians’ right to health via their relationships and posture toward the settler colonial context
  • Environmental justice, health rights, and settler colonialism in Palestine/Israel
  • Analyses of the successes and/or failures, or inherent strengths and limitations, of a HRBA to health and human rights in any of the Palestinian contexts to date
  • Comparative analysis between Palestine/Israel and other state/geography/population contexts with regard to settler colonialism, racism, or apartheid and the right to health
  • The use of security justifications in Palestine/Israel (+/- comparative analysis with other settler colonial contexts) and the abrogation of the right to health, life, and wellbeing
  • The outsourcing of healthcare under settler colonialism and the question of health rights when treated by colonial healthcare teams and institutions
  • The impacts of systemic, structural, or direct racism on the health of Palestinians

Submission details

  • Papers and Perspective Essays must be submitted by 31 May 2022
  • Full papers have a maximum word length of 7,000 words, including references. We also invite Perspective Essays of up to 3000 words, including references, and Viewpoints of between 900-1500 words, including references, on this topic.
  • Author guidelines are available here.

Questions about this special section and outline abstracts can be directed to Bram Wispelwey: bwispelwey@bwh.harvard.edu