Intensive Course on Health and Human Rights

Participants in the FXB Center's Intensive Course on Health and Human Rights.
Participants in the FXB Center’s Intensive Course on Health and Human Rights.

The 2014 course was held on Wednesday, June 4 through Friday, June 6.  Click here for a list of faculty and subject areas that the course covered.

Professionals and leaders in aid, development, governance, and medicine are increasingly expected to integrate human rights in policy and programs, though their training rarely equips them with the skills necessary to apply methods and practices grounded in basic human rights. Recognizing the importance and utility of the intersection of health and human rights, the FXB Center inaugurated its three-day Intensive Course on Health and Human Rights in June 2012, equipping more than 60 decision-makers from the international, NGO, academic, and private sector communities with the concepts, skills, and tools to integrate human rights into their activities at policy, programmatic, and individual levels. The FXB Center’s second year of the course, held in June 2013, attracted an equally varied group of participants from around the world.

Under the leadership of Prof. Jennifer Leaning, Director of the FXB Center, and Prof. Stephen P. Marks, FXB Professor of Health and Human Rights, participants develop insights into methods used to analyze the human rights dimensions of public health programs and policies, and international mechanisms and procedures that further the human rights of vulnerable individuals and populations. Including a range of presenters drawn from the FXB Center’s broad network of fellows, affiliates, and associates, the course incorporates topics such as rights-based approaches to public health, international human rights and humanitarian law and systems, child labor and human trafficking, and 21st century human rights challenges and initiatives.


Global School on Socioeconomic Rights: Course on Health Rights Litigation

The last fifteen years have seen a tremendous growth in the number of health rights cases. Yet questions still persist as to when and how litigation can lead to greater social justice in health and enhance the functioning of health systems. In many countries people view litigation as an expensive, technical, and difficult process. The resulting lack of legal challenges weakens the enforcement of health-related laws, leaving people unable to promote their own health rights and manage their own health risks. It also allows for gross inequities in the distribution of resources for health, including a lack of attention to vulnerable groups.

Participants during a session of the 2013 Global School.
Participants during a session of the 2013 Global School.

To address these ongoing challenges, the HRWC Program, in conjunction with the Global School on Socioeconomic Rights, leads a one-week intensive training course for academics, students, and practitioners in strategic litigation relating to health rights, and in particular the health rights of women and children. This one-week intensive course offers participants an opportunity to develop specialist-level knowledge in relation to litigating health-related rights at the national, regional, and international levels. Topics covered include: sexual and reproductive health and rights; rights issues arising in health-care settings; palliative care; approaches to health-care rationing and factors to consider in assessing the equity impacts of judgments; access to medicines and intellectual property; judicial legitimacy in deciding issues with budgetary and policy implications; and judicial effectiveness and impact of judgments. In June 2012, HRWC hosted practitioners from 23 countries for the inaugural course at Harvard. The second session of the course was held in September 2013 and the forty-four participants represented twenty-four countries from regions around the world. In conjunction with the course, Health and Human Rights, the FXB Center’s peer-reviewed open access journal under the editorship of Paul Farmer, Chair of the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School, will release a special issue on health rights litigation, which will be guest edited by Alicia Ely Yamin, Lecturer on Global Health and Director of HRWC. Participants in the course will have the opportunity to submit papers related to the health rights litigation topics addressed during the course.

In 2014, the Global School course will focus exclusively on sexual and reproductive rights (SRR) litigation, including such topics as: abortion, criminalization of sex work, litigating LGBT rights in varied contexts, access to sexual and reproductive health entitlements, and working with marginalized groups in doing SRR advocacy. The three-day intensive course, held November 3-5, 2014 at Harvard University in Boston, MA, will enable participants to develop specialist-level knowledge in relation to litigating on sexual and reproductive health and rights at national and international levels, as well as afford ample opportunities for engaging in discussions and network building with practitioners from across the globe. Instructors include leading practitioners and judges from around the world, as well as scholars from the field.

Participants in the Harvard SRR litigation course this year will also be invited to attend a two-day international symposium on “Sexual and Reproductive Rights ‘Lawfare’ in International Tribunals” which will be held at Harvard University on November 6-7, and will draw leading experts from around the world to discuss the dynamics as well as the normative and empirical impacts of using international tribunals and forums in relation to controversial SRR issues.

The course is conducted in English, is highly participatory, and uses case studies extensively. Last year’s course included participants from twenty-four different countries worldwide. The course is designed for PhD students, scholars, practitioners (e.g., law, public health, human rights or development), policy-makers and advanced master’s students. The number of participants is restricted, and fellowships are limited. Applications are due to by July 1, 2014.

Read more about the Global School on Socioeconomic Rights: 2014 Course on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights Litigation and access the application.