National Human Rights Institutions to promote right to health and leaving no one behind

21 June 2019

The right to health, including HIV and sexual and reproductive health services, is a fundamental human right, bound by global, regional and national political commitments, including the Sustainable Development Goals, the African Union Agenda 2063, and most recently, the Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) Strategy for the SADC Region (2019–2030).

Punitive and discriminatory laws and practices that do not protect or promote human rights act as barriers to universal access to HIV, sexual and reproductive health and other health services.

“Huge barriers to access to sexual and reproductive health and HIV services still exist for key populations, including sex workers, prisoners, people who use drugs, gender non-conforming people and people with non-binary orientation”, said Bruce Tashabe, of the AIDS Rights Alliance of Southern Africa.

To explore this issue further, UNAIDS, together with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and in partnership with the Network of African National Human Rights Institutions and the International Development Law Organization organized a High-level Consultation for National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) to promote the implementation of commitments made on the right to health, in June 2019 in Johannesburg, South Africa.  

During the consultation, NHRIs from across the African continent, with the support from a range of partners, exchanged best practices in order to learn and to strengthen their capacities. Building on the “Call for Action and Accountability” adopted during the Regional Consultation for NHRIs and Parliamentarians on Realizing the Right to Health and Ending AIDS, held in Nairobi, Kenya, in August 2018, participants developed roadmaps for implementation and domestication.  

“It is time that NHRIs make a shift and take it upon themselves to act. We have the tools and mandate in our legal framework to do this”, said Sabelo Masuku from the NHRI in Eswatini.

Participants in the two-day consultation included Commissioners of NHRIs from 11 countries across the continent, representatives from civil society, human rights specialists and advocates, including members of the African Think-Tank on HIV, Health and Social Justice, together with representatives from UN agencies.

“This consultative meeting has mobilized national efforts, through NHRIs, to integrate human rights and the right to health into the HIV response,” said Dunstain Fipamutima Nwaugulu, a judge and member of the African Think-Tank on HIV, Health and Social Justice.