UNCT Seminar Series: The Right to Development, Health, and Agenda 2030

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  • 2018•03•19     Kuala Lumpur

    Recognizing that the United Nations University (UNU) is the think-tank for the United Nations system, the UNU-IIGH will host a series of monthly seminars presented by representatives of UN agencies that make up the United Nations Country Team (UNCT) in Malaysia. The seminars will serve as a conduit for UN agencies to inform the public on their mission, mandate, operations, and contributions of the agency towards the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

    Dr Obijiofor Aginam, Deputy-Director of UNU-IIGH kicked off the series with the first UNCT Seminar on 1 March with a presentation on “The Right to Development: Health and Well-Being in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development“. Attendees included UNU-IIGH researchers, and academics from public and private universities in Malaysia.

    Dr Aginam laid out how the lessons from the Right to Development framework offers some useful pathways towards understanding the scope and content of the right to the highest attainable standard of health, and health-related Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Humans are the central beneficiaries of development. The right to development, according the UN Declaration on the Right to Development (DRTD), “is an inalienable human right by virtue of which every human person and all peoples are entitled to participate in, contribute to, and enjoy economic, social, cultural and political development, in which all human rights and fundamental freedoms can be fully realized”. The SDGs recognize this by anchoring the 17 Goals on 5 big transformative shifts:

    • leave no one behind
    • put sustainable development at the core
    • transform economies for jobs and inclusive growth
    • build peace and effective, open and accountable institutions for all, and
    • forge a new global partnership

    With health as the primary focus on Goal 3 of the SDGs, of which the overarching aim is “to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages”, Goal 3 has 13 specific targets: (1) reducing maternal mortality; (2) ending preventable deaths of newborns; (3) ending the epidemics of AIDS, TB, Malaria, and Neglected Tropical Diseases; (4) reducing premature mortality from Non-communicable Diseases (NCDs); (5) strengthening the prevention and treatment of substance abuse including narcotic drug abuse and harmful use of alcohol; (6) halving the number of injuries from road traffic accidents; (7) ensuring universal access to sexual and reproductive health services; (8) achieving Universal Health Coverage; (9) reducing deaths and illness from air, water and soil pollution; (10) tobacco control; (11) supporting research and development of vaccines and medicines for communicable and non-communicable diseases including access to affordable essential medicines for all; (12) increased health financing, development and training, and retention of health workforce in developing countries; and (13) the strengthening of capacity for all countries for early warning, risk reduction and management of national and global health risks.

    To understand the scope and content of SDG #3 (health and well-being) and the targets, the seminar explored some of the lessons from the Right to Development towards implementing the SDGs. One of the most important lessons from the right to development is the integrated and interdependent nature of all rights. Agenda 2030 presents the 17 SDGs as integrated and interdependent goals.

    The diagram below obtained from the World Health Organization (WHO) website, illustrates how operationalizing the right to development contributes to achieving the Goals and Targets of the 2030 Agenda related to health and well-being.

    Dr Aginam stressed the need to build synergies and strengthen the linkages between SDG #3, and the other 16 Goals within existing human rights obligations, norms, and soft-law mechanisms including the DRTD, relevant General Comments of UN Special Rapporteurs, and Comments by the relevant committees of UN Human Rights treaty bodies. This approach would advance “leaving no one behind” ideal based on the codifications of right to health that provide that “the highest attainable standard of health is one of the fundamental rights of every human being without distinction of race, religion, political belief, economic or social condition”.

    Some of the attendees. Photo: UNU-IIGH. Creative Commons BY-NC 2.0

    Dr Obijiofor Aginam during the seminar. Photo: UNU-IIGH. Creative Commons BY-NC 2.0