Health Care Analysis

, Volume 23, Issue 4, pp 308–329 | Cite as

Imagining Global Health with Justice: In Defense of the Right to Health

  • Eric A. FriedmanEmail author
  • Lawrence O. Gostin
Original Article


The singular message in Global Health Law is that we must strive to achieve global health with justice—improved population health, with a fairer distribution of benefits of good health. Global health entails ensuring the conditions of good health—public health, universal health coverage, and the social determinants of health—while justice requires closing today’s vast domestic and global health inequities. These conditions for good health should be incorporated into public policy, supplemented by specific actions to overcome barriers to equity. A new global health treaty grounded in the right to health and aimed at health equity—a Framework Convention on Global Health (FCGH)—stands out for its possibilities in helping to achieve global health with justice. This far-reaching legal instrument would establish minimum standards for universal health coverage and public health measures, with an accompanying national and international financing framework, require a constant focus on health equity, promote Health in All Policies and global governance for health, and advance the principles of good governance, including accountability. While achieving an FCGH is certainly ambitious, it is a struggle worth the efforts of us all. The treaty’s basis in the right to health, which has been agreed to by all governments, has powerful potential to form the foundation of global governance for health. From interpretations of UN treaty bodies to judgments of national courts, the right to health is now sufficiently articulated to serve this role, with the individual’s right to health best understood as a function of a social, political, and economic environment aimed at equity. However great the political challenge of securing state agreement to the FCGH, it is possible. States have joined other treaties with significant resource requirements and limitations on their sovereignty without significant reciprocal benefits from other states, while important state interests would benefit from the FCGH. And from integrating the FCGH into the existing human rights system to creative forms of compliance and enforcement and strengthened domestic legal and political accountability mechanisms, the treaty stands to improve right to health compliance. The potential for the FCGH to bring the right to health nearer universal reality calls for us to embark on the journey towards securing this global treaty.


Right to health Global health Justice Equity Global health with justice Framework Convention on Global Health Public health Universal health coverage Social determinants of health 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health LawGeorgetown University Law CenterWashingtonUSA

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