208N, Munk School of Global Affairs (1 Devonshire Place)
  • April 20, 2016 from 10:00am to 12:00pm

Presenter: Lisa Forman (CPHS Program Director, Canada Chair in Human Rights and Global health Equity and Lupina Assistant Professor Dalla Lana School of Public Health)

Discussant: Rebecca Cook (Professor Emerita at the Faculty of Law & Co-Director, International Reproductive and Sexual Health Law Programme, University of Toronto)

Few rights generate more debate and confusion than the international human right to the highest attainable standard of health, an amorphous formulation complicated further by the limitation of state duties under this to right to progressive realization within available resources. In order to prevent these formulations from undermining both domestic and international responsibilities towards health, international human rights law institutions developed the idea that these rights hold an inviolable ‘minimum core’ equivalent to essential health needs. Yet few aspects of this right and indeed of economic social and cultural rights have generated greater debate and unresolved questions than the concept of minimum core obligations: Is the core fixed or moveable, non-derogable or restrictable, universal or country-specific? Is its function to guarantee specified bundles of the most essential health facilities, goods and services, or it is to require governments to act reasonably to progressively realize these minimal health entitlements? What is the legitimacy of this concept in terms of international law and will this concept endure through new and emerging interpretation and enforcement of the right to health? My CPHS presentation will explore several of these questions in light of the evolution of the concept of minimum core obligations in international law and human rights scholarship, focusing in particular on formal and implicit interpretations of this concept provided by the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

Lisa Forman is a South African human rights lawyer and international human rights law scholar whose research explores the contribution of the right to health in international law to remediating global health inequities. She holds a Canada Research Chair Tier 2 in Human Rights and Global Health Equity. Her current research focuses on the strengthening of the concept of the minimum core concept within the international human right to health, and the development of post-2015 rights-based health development goals. In 1993, she completed a BA and LLB at the University of the Witwatersrand, and in 1995, completed articles of clerkship and the qualifying board exams to become a practising lawyer. From 1996-1999, Forman worked as a human rights lawyer on HIV/AIDS at the Centre for Applied Legal Studies at the University of the Witwatersrand, and then as a consultant on HIV/AIDS and human rights at the National Commission on Gender Equality. In 2001, Lisa completed a Masters in Human Rights Studies from Columbia University, and in 2006, a Doctorate in Juridical Science (SJD) from the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Law. Her SJD focused on the contribution of the right to health in international human rights law to increasing access to AIDS treatment, focusing on the case-study of South Africa. From 2006-2009, Forman completed postdoctoral training at the University of Toronto exploring the theoretical and practical relevance of international human rights law to medicines access in low and middle-income countries. Since August 2009, she has been the Lupina assistant professor in global health and human rights at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health, and Director of the Comparative Program on Health and Society (CPHS) at the Munk School of Global Affairs. Forman has collaborated with a range of non-governmental, intergovernmental and international organizations, including the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, the Zambian AIDS Research and Advocacy Network, the US Centre for Economic and Social Rights, Care Peru, the World Health Organization, the United Nations Office of the High Commission for Human Rights and United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health.

Rebecca Cook, A.B. (Barnard), M.A. (Tufts), M.P.A. (Harvard), J.D. (Georgetown), LL.M. (Columbia), J.S.D. (Columbia), called to the Bar of Washington, D.C., is a Professor in the Faculty of Law, the Faculty of Medicine and the Joint Centre for Bioethics at the University of Toronto; and Co-Director, International Reproductive and Sexual Health Law Programme, University of Toronto. She is ethical and legal issues co-editor of the International Journal of Gynecology and Obstetrics, and serves on the editorial advisory boards of Human Rights Quarterly and Reproductive Health Matters. She is the recipient of the Certificate of Recognition for Outstanding Contribution to Women’s Health by the International Federation of Gynecologists and Obstetricians, the Ludwik and Estelle Jus Memorial Human Rights Prize, and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada.