The Global Health and Human Rights Database is a free online database of law from around the world relating to health and human rights. Developed by Lawyers Collective and the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law at Georgetown University, in collaboration with a worldwide network of civil society partners, the database offers an interactive, searchable, and fully indexed website of case law, national constitutions and international instruments.
The right to health and other health-related rights have been enshrined in a number of international treaties, regional instruments, and national constitutions and laws. This has given rise to a significant body of cases decided by national courts and international and regional human rights bodies that interpret the content and State obligations of the right to health and other health-related rights, based on relevant human rights treaties and other legal instruments.
However, despite growing use of international, regional and domestic litigation to enforce and interpret rights in health related-matters, there is no comprehensive collection and categorization of health and human rights judgments. In response, the Lawyers Collective and the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law—working with over 100 partners globally, including NGOs, academics and private researchers—collaborated to bring together judgments, instruments, and constitutions involving health and human rights in a single Global Health and Human Rights Database. The Database consists of three sections:
- International and regional instruments; and
- National constitutions.
Relevant judgments were selected for inclusion in the Database and summarized where the specific case:
- Is adjudicated by an international, regional, or domestic court (or quasi-judicial body, such as the UN Human Rights Committee or the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights);
- Implicates a specified health topic; and
- Argues a right of individuals or groups or an obligation of duty-bearers referenced in relevant international or national law.
This Database categorizes judgments on the basis of: relevant health-related rights, with specific attention paid to the right to health as understood in the context of the international right to health framework developed by the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) in General Comment No. 14; health topics as understood in the framework of health topics developed by WHO; and regional scope as defined by the United Nations.
International and Regional Instruments
International and regional instruments were selected for their inclusion in the Database where the instrument:
- Is binding under international law or is an integral component of global health policy; and
- The instrument’s provisions address a health-related right of individuals or groups or an obligation of duty-bearers.
National constitutions were selected for their inclusion in the Database where the constitution:
- Addresses a right or an obligation considered to be explicitly linked with or interpreted in relation to health or an underlying determinant of health; and
- Explicitly states the right as a right of individuals or groups or an obligation of duty-bearers (including provisions on freedoms, such as freedom from discrimination, which may be stated as prohibition).
A mere statement of aspiration, reference to a relevant issue or broad definition of the government’s scope of work without a sense of the government’s obligation or rights of individuals or groups were not included.
Judgments, international and regional instruments, and national constitutions have been classified geographically based on the United Nations Statistics Division.
As practitioners and scholars analyze legal strategies, the Database can provide a starting point for research and practice. Given the growth of this database, it is expected that such a resource may serve as a basis for analogous legal reasoning across states to serve as precedents for future judgments, for comparative legal analysis of similar health claims in different country contexts, and for empirical research to clarify the impact of health-related rights on health outcomes.