Within the framework of Human Rights Council resolution 42/16, the Special Rapporteur on the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health has identified racism and the right to health as one of her priorities during her tenure (See A/HRC/47/28 paras 87-94). In compliance with her mandate and in line with this priority she has decided to devote her next thematic report to the General Assembly in October 2022 to the theme of “Racism and the right to health.”
Objectives of the report
The Special Rapporteur underlines that racism is a key social determinant of health and a driver of health inequities. With this report, she would like to shed light on the impact of racism and discrimination on the grounds of race, colour, descent, caste, national or ethnic origin or migrant or refugee status, on the enjoyment of the right to health. She will focus on its impact particularly on Black people, persons of African descent, Arabs and Muslims, Asians and persons of Asian descent, migrants and persons belonging to indigenous peoples and minorities and the intersection of factors such as poverty, or discrimination based on age, sex, gender identity, expression, sexual orientation, disability, migration status, health status e.g. HIV, Albinism etc. and the rural and urban divide.
She intends to consider the historic perspective of the impact of past and contemporary forms of racism on the right to health and on the ability of individuals and communities to realize their right to access health care, services and goods including the realization of sexual and reproductive health rights and on the ability of States to fulfill their obligations under the right to health. The focus of the report will be on the impact of racism on human dignity, life, non-discrimination, equality, the right to control one's health, including the right to be free from non-consensual medical treatment and experimentation as well their entitlement to a system of health protections. In so doing, and by adopting the anti-coloniality1 and anti-racism frameworks, the report will expose the impact of the living legacy of past and ongoing forms of racism, apartheid, slavery coloniality and oppressive structures in the global health including the economic architecture and funding, national health systems on racialized people.
Importantly, the Special Rapporteur will adopt an intersectional approach and take into account the multiple forms of discrimination affecting persons experiencing racism and related discrimination in the context of health care. She will analyze the links between inequalities in accessing adequate health care and social disparities, sex, age, gender, poverty, class, nationality, exclusion, disability and the rural and urban divide and related systems of oppression.
The Special Rapporteur would also like to identify good practices that affirm the right to a system of health protection (i.e. health care and the underlying social determinants of health) that provides equality of opportunity for people to enjoy the highest attainable standard of health.
She seeks examples of how to combat racism and discrimination on the grounds of race, colour, descent, national or ethnic origin – in accessing health care health facilities, goods and services and the underlying determinants of health.
The questionnaires can be downloaded below in English (original language), French and Spanish (unofficial translations). Responses can address some of the questions or all of them, as feasible or preferred.
How and where to submit inputs
Inputs may be sent by e-mail by 2 June 2022.
Treatment of inputs/comments received
Please note that all responses will be published on the official webpage of the Special Rapporteur by default unless it is indicated that the submission and/or the supporting documentation should be kept confidential.
You can choose to answer all or some of the questions below. (750 words limit per question).
- What are the main ongoing manifestations of racism, and related forms of discrimination enabled by racism that may be prevalent in your country in the area of the right to health broadly including in underlying determinants of health, health outcomes and access to health care?
- Who are the most affected people and why? Please describe existing disparities in the provision of and access to health services that affect people of different racial and ethnic origin, descent as well as other groups, such as migrants. The lack of data, analysis or health indicators in this regard may also be reflected.
- Under the right to health, States have a special obligation to refrain from denying or limiting equal access for all persons, comprising minorities, asylum seekers and migrants including undocumented migrants, to preventive, curative and palliative health services; abstain from enforcing discriminatory practices as a State policy as well as to ensure equal access to health care and health-related services provided by third parties. Please explain how the above point is implemented in your country, what works well and not so well and illustrate with disaggregated data if possible.
- What has been the impact of colonialism and the imposition of allopathic medicine on the availability of indigenous and traditional health knowledge systems, medicine and practices, and on the right to health more broadly in your country?]. Are health services available in your country that give due consideration and acknowledgment of, or respectfully incorporate indigenous/traditional health knowledge systems and practices, preventative care, healing practices and medicines? Please share examples of good practices.
- Please share examples of good legal and policy frameworks that address past or ongoing racism and racial and related forms of discrimination, specifically in relation to access to underlying determinants as well as quality health care, goods, services and facilities, including sexual and reproductive health.
- Please share examples of public health financing, non-governmental sector funding practices, inter-agency finance solutions, medical insurance products that show manifestations of ongoing or past racism and related discrimination, at the local and global levels that impact racialized people, as well as other factors such as poverty, or discrimination based on age, sex, gender identity, expression, sexual orientation, disability, migration status, health status e.g. HIV, Albinism etc. and the rural and urban divide.”
- Please share good practices and examples of public health interventions resulting in adequate access (inside and outside the health sector), support knowledge production or implementation of programs that successfully address inequalities in particular the impact of racism and related racial discrimination, as well as other factors such as poverty, or discrimination based on sex, gender identity, expression, sexual orientation, disability and migration status.
- Please share good examples and practices that enable accountability in public and private sector that enable access to justice and redress to victims of racism and discrimination on the grounds such as colour, descent, national or ethnic origin or migrant or refugee status in the provision of health care and as it intersects with factors such as poverty, or discrimination based on age, sex, gender identity, expression, sexual orientation, disability, migration status, health status e.g. HIV, Albinism etc. and the rural and urban divide.”
- Please share information about the sources of health financing for your country, the quantity and quality of said financing, as well as any aid or funding conditionalities, global economic policies, and austerity or other measures requested or encouraged by international financial institutions, multilateral agencies or donors, that negatively affect health systems and people’s access to health in your country.
- What are the historical and ongoing legacies and impacts of colonialism and slavery on the right to health in your country? And how has the lack of reparations for slavery, colonialism, apartheid and racial discrimination impacted the right to health in your country?
- Please also share good practices and examples of reparations for racial discrimination related to the right to health violations and abuses.
“In 2018, Charles Nwgena noted:
[…] Race remains an associational criterion that people often claim as part of their identity or that may be ascribed to them by others or the political community of which they are part. Race has political implications where the body politic is racialized, overtly or covertly, in the sense that racial differentiation is tethered to hierarchized essences that carry social, political and economic meanings that may be positive or negative for the racialized subject, depending on which side of the “colour line” the person falls or is deemed to fall.”2
The International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination defines “racial discrimination” as: “any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin which has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal footing, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural or any other field of public life.” (Article 1)
The Declaration and Programme of Action adopted at the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance held in 2001 in Durban, (South Africa) by the United Nations - known as the Durban Conference urged States, individually and through international cooperation, to enhance measures to fulfil the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, with a view to eliminating disparities in health status, (…), which might result from racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. (Durban Programme of Action, para. 109)
In 2009, Durban Review Conference accepted the interpretation given by the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination to the definition of the concept of racial discrimination as contained in the Convention, so as to address multiple or aggravated forms of racial discrimination, as reflected in its outcome document.