Making Explicit a Rights-Based Approach to Infodemic in a Public Health Emergency

By Calvin Wai-Loon Ho

With the mainstreaming of digital technology across many spheres of social life, infodemic management must be an integral part of public health emergency prevention, preparedness, response, and recovery.

While the Principles and Guidelines on Human Rights and Public Health Emergencies (the Principles) do not make explicit reference to infodemics, the application of digital technologies in response to a public health emergency is a clear concern. This article provides further elaboration and critique of the Principles and their treatment of this emergent phenomenon.

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Bill of Health - Globe and vaccine, covid vaccine

COVID-19 Showcased Failed Global Cooperation

By Kayum Ahmed, Julia Bleckner, and Kyle Knight

In mid-May, the World Health Organization officially declared  the “emergency” phase of the COVID-19 pandemic over. However, the deep wounds of the pandemic remain, compelling  those concerned about this pandemic and  future health emergencies to account for catastrophic failures by those in power. These reflections suggest that the public health crisis could have been addressed differently, both reducing COVID-19’s unprecedented magnitude of illness and death, and preserving human dignity.

The COVID-19 pandemic isn’t over, and the end of this pandemic’s emergency phase certainly doesn’t mean we accept the widely abysmal response as the model for the world’s reaction to the next one. Public health emergencies aren’t entirely preventable. We live in a complex world where health is increasingly affected by a changing climate, extraordinary levels of pollution, and inadequate preventive and responsive health services. Emergencies will happen. But when they do, responses that uphold human rights need to be the norm.

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Risograph clenched, raised fists with speech bubble and geometric shapes, trendy riso graph design.

Introduction to the Symposium: From Principles to Practice: Human Rights and Public Health Emergencies

By Roojin Habibi, Timothy Fish Hodgson, and Alicia Ely Yamin

Today, as the world transitions from living in the grips of a novel coronavirus to living with an entrenched, widespread infectious disease known as COVID-19, global appreciation for the human rights implications of public health crises are once again rapidly fading from view.

Against the backdrop of this burgeoning collective amnesia, a project to articulate the human rights norms relevant to public health emergencies led to the development of the 2023 Principles and Guidelines on Human Rights and Public Health Emergencies (the Principles).

This symposium gathers reflections from leading scholars, activists, jurists, and others from around the world with respect to the recently issued Principles.

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Women take part in a march in defense of legal abortion on International Safe Abortion Day at Paulista Avenue in Sao Paulo, Brazil, on September 28, 2023.

Why We Still Need a Day for Global Action to Decriminalize Abortion in Latin America

By Alma Beltrán y Puga

More than 30 years have passed since women gathered for the Fifth Feminist Latin American Meeting in Argentina and launched the September 28th Campaign in favor of decriminalizing abortion in the region.

The initiative, however, remains painfully relevant, as still today most countries in Central America and the Caribbean prohibit abortion even in cases of sexual violence and instances where the pregnant woman’s health (and, potentially, life) is at stake. Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador and the Dominican Republic hold the most restrictive abortion laws in the region.

Change may happen soon, though, as the Interamerican Court of Human Rights (IACtHR) is set to decide an abortion case from El Salvador; the case of Beatriz, which hopefully will catalyze reform to discriminatory abortion laws.

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United States Capitol Building - Washington, DC.

How Comparative Law Can Counter Threats to the ‘Most Successful Global Health Program in Modern History’

By Joelle Boxer

PEPFAR, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, is under threat. Some members of Congress are withholding reauthorization support while arguing, without evidence, that PEPFAR funds abortion.

This is untrue: U.S. law prohibits PEPFAR from funding abortion. That alone should resolve the current impasse and secure the program’s reauthorization. Should bad faith opponents require further reassurance, however, they need look no further than the local legal realities of the 25 countries and 3 regions where PEPFAR operates.

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Puebla, Mexico - September 28, 2020: With green scarves, members of feminist collectives demonstrate in the streets of the Historic Center of Puebla to demand the legalization of abortion.

Sex Equality in #SeptiembreVerde: Examining the Mexican Supreme Court’s Abortion Decriminalization Decision

By Joelle Boxer

Earlier this month, Mexico’s Supreme Court issued a ruling decriminalizing abortion nationwide, setting a powerful example in the global trend of abortion law liberalization, including on the grounds of sex equality.

Hailed as “incredible” by reproductive justice advocates, the decision will be most impactful in the 20 Mexican states where local laws still criminalize abortion, potentially removing access barriers for more than 42 million women.

This article will explain the origins of the case, what the decision holds, and what it says about sex equality.

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New York NY USA-July 8, 2023 Advertising for the Warner Bros. Pictures Barbie film in Times Square in New York.

Barbie’s Utopia and (the Absence of) Social Rights

By Alma Beltrán y Puga

Is Barbie feminist? Is Greta Gerwig’s script based on ideas of gender equality? The movie is certainly appreciated for promoting a global discussion on feminist ideas and gender roles. But answering these questions is complicated. Barbie opens in a version of a feminist utopia: a world where women are rulers and men servants. These inverted political gender roles are based on radical feminist theories that consider women’s liberation will only be possible when feminist values, such as care and dialogue, are taken seriously, and women in power embrace them. However, Barbie Land is a portrait of this feminist fantasy with too much pink and a very basic liberal idea of the State: civil and political rights are the fundamental rights of society.

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Beawar, Rajasthan, India, April 19, 2021: People roam at the main market.

Climate-Resilient and Accessible Architecture

By Abhishek Kumar and Kavya Poornima Balajepalli

Climate change is the gravest threat currently faced by human civilization, and our architecture must internalize this reality of our time.

Knowing that the best way to protect people from climate chaos is by tackling inequality, it is critical that our built environment integrate universal design, as lack of accessibility has cascading and compounding impact on vulnerable communities, and especially persons with disabilities.

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Oil refineries polluting carbon and cancer causing smoke stacks climate change and power plants in Corpus Christi, Texas.

Understanding Climate and Disability Justice: Mitigating Structural Barriers to the Right to Health

By Cynthia Golembeski, Ans Irfan, Michael Méndez, Amite Dominick, Rasheera Dopson, and Julie Skarha

People with disabilities — one of the most climate vulnerable groups — are often overlooked before, during, and in the aftermath of disasters.

Structural competency, which accounts for systemic “level determinants, biases, inequities, and blind spots,” is important to mitigating environmental racism and ableism in climate change and disaster policy. To achieve such intersectional approaches, the social determinants of health provide a useful framework. It explains how conditions, forces, and systems, including poverty, discrimination, underlying health disparities, and governance, not only shape daily life but also  vulnerability to climate-induced disasters (Figure 1). Decreasing vulnerability requires understanding and addressing upstream root causes of health inequities.

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