On December 10th, the world remembers the extraordinary achievement of that day in 1948 when nations came together to sign the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
The power and relevance of the recognition enshrined in the Declaration—that all human beings have fundamental rights and freedoms—is more important than ever when the world faces an unprecedented public health crisis.
In 1990, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), in collaboration with the IACHR of the OAS, launched an initiative designed to restructure psychiatric care throughout the Americas. At the heart of the initiative was the promotion and protection of the human rights of people with mental disabilities.
Since then, PAHO has issued guidelines for reforming mental health systems based on internationally accepted human rights norms and standards. It also has conducted many workshops with WHO and the IACHR to train community leaders, mental health service users, advocacy group members, medical professionals, and government workers and decision-makers, among others, about international human rights standards and their application in hospitals, mental health facilities, and in the community.
PAHO, as the UN and OAS specialized agency for health in the Americas, has a central role to play in promoting and protecting the right to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health and linking this right to other human rights.