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PAHO Teams Honored for Advancing Health as a Human Right

Two Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) technical teams were honored today for using international human rights treaties and standards to advance health-related objectives as part of their technical cooperation work in PAHO member countries.

In a special observance of Human Rights Day at PAHO headquarters, PAHO Director Dr. Mirta Roses honored PAHO’s Country Office in Guatemala and the members of the Organization’s expert team on tobacco control as the two teams that were “most active” in using human rights instruments as an integral part of their cooperation work.

PAHO/WHO David Spitz

Specifically, PAHO’s tobacco control team was cited for work that included the development of a tool kit that details health-related international human rights obligations protected by treaties and standards of both the Inter-American and United Nations systems. The team also organized training workshops on human rights and health for workers in the private sector, especially hotel, club and restaurant workers. This year, the tobacco team used a human rights approach to support a resolution by PAHO’s Directing Council that countered an attack on public health by the tobacco industry.

PAHO’s Country Office in Guatemala was honored for work starting in 2002 that used human rights treaties and standards to train and educate staff of Guatemalan psychiatric hospitals as well as the staff of the Guatemalan Human Rights Ombudsman’s office. In 2007, the Guatemala office worked closely with PAHO’s HIV team to train health workers, police, judges, and others on human rights instruments related to the rights of people with HIV. Most recently, the Guatemala team has worked with other U.N. agencies active in the country to prepare the visit of the U.N. Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health.

The right to health is defined as a basic human right in a number of human rights agreements, including the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the 1946 Constitution of the World Health Organization. In honoring the two teams, PAHO Director Dr. Mirta Roses noted that these instruments provide a valuable conceptual and legal framework for clarifying the responsibilities of Member States and evaluating their progress toward ensuring the right to health and other health-related human rights. As such, these instruments are important tools for advancing accountability among governments.

Earlier this year, the PAHO Directing Council endorsed the approach in an official resolution, which calls on countries to work toward improved access to health for vulnerable groups by promoting and monitoring compliance with international human rights treaties and standards.

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