People's Charter for Health
The People’s Charter for Health was adopted at the People’s Health Assembly on December 8, 2000, in Savar, Bangladesh. The Assembly was organised by several international organisations, NGOs and women’s groups “committed to the principles of primary health care and people’s perspectives.”
The 14-page Charter states that governments’ failure to implement the principles of primary healthcare as stated in the Declaration of Alma-Ata has significantly aggravated the ‘global health crisis’. (The Declaration of Alma-Ata was adopted on September 12, 1978, at the International Conference on Primary Health Care in Alma-Ata, USSR; the conference was organised by the World Health Organization and the United Nations Children’s Fund.)
According to the Preamble to the Charter, “Health is a social, economic and political issue and above all a fundamental human right… Health for all means that powerful interests have to be challenged, that globalisation has to be opposed, and that political and economic priorities have to be drastically changed."
The Charter calls on the “people of the world” to support all efforts to implement the right to health; demand that governments and international organisations reformulate, implement and enforce policies and practices which respect the right to health; build movements to pressure governments to incorporate health and human rights into national constitutions and legislation; and fight the exploitation of people’s health needs for purposes of profit.
What are the principles of the People’s Charter for Health?
The Charter states that the attainment of the highest possible level of health and well‐being is a fundamental human right, regardless of a person's colour, ethnic background, religion, gender, age, abilities, sexual orientation or class. Policies on health should be formulated on the basis of the principles of universal and comprehensive primary healthcare, as envisioned in the Declaration of Alma-Ata.
Governments, the Charter notes, have a fundamental responsibility to ensure universal access to quality healthcare, education and other social services – as per people’s needs, not their ability to pay. The participation of people and people’s organisations is essential to formulate, implement and evaluate all health and social policies and programmes.
The Charter states that health is primarily determined by one’s political, economic, social and physical environment. Health should be a top priority in local, national and international policy-making – along with equity and sustainable development.
What does the Charter say about broader determinants of health?
The Charter mentions economic, social and political, and environmental challenges as broader determinants of health. It also discusses war, violence, conflict and natural disasters.
Economic policies that prioritise equity, health and social well‐being can improve the health of people as well as the economy. The Charter appeals to people of the world to demand the cancellation of ‘Third World debt’ and the “…transformation of the World Trade Organisation and the global trading system so that it ceases to violate social, environmental, economic and health rights of people and begins to discriminate positively in favour of countries of the South.” The Charter urges people to demand the regulation of transnational companies so they do not have negative effects on people’s health or the environment; it calls on people to ensure that governments implement agricultural policies attuned to people's needs and not to the demands of the market.
Comprehensive social policies – observes the Charter – have positive effects on people’s lives and livelihoods. The Charter calls on people to demand equal rights for men and women, free and compulsory education for all children and adults, and that the activities of public institutions – such as child care services – benefit the health of people. It urges people to pressure governments to introduce and enforce legislation to protect and promote the rights of marginalised groups; oppose the global trafficking of women and children and ‘fundamentalist forces’ that threaten the rights and liberties of individuals; and condemn the forced displacement of people from their lands, homes or jobs.
Environmental changes and climate change, the Charter notes, have far-reaching effects on people’s health – the Charter calls on people to demand that all development projects be evaluated against health and environmental criteria, and that governments rapidly commit themselves to reducing greenhouse gases and implement measures to ensure occupational health and safety. The Charter urges people to hold transnational and national corporations, public institutions and the military, accountable for any of their destructive and hazardous activities that may impact the environment and people's health.
The Charter appeals to people to support campaigns for peace, disarmament, for the prevention of natural disasters and the reduction of any subsequent human suffering, and against the use of weapons of mass destruction and other arms. It urges people to condemn violence against women and children, demands the end of occupation and “the radical transformation of the UN Security Council so that it functions democratically.”
What does the Charter say about a People Centred Health Sector?
The Charter discusses the provision of universal and comprehensive primary healthcare, irrespective of one’s ability to pay. To achieve this, the Charter urges people to demand that governments promote, finance and provide comprehensive primary healthcare for all; and that governments oppose the privatisation of public health services and ensure the regulation of the private medical sector. It calls on people to demand “a radical transformation of the World Health Organization (WHO) so that it responds to health challenges in a manner which benefits the poor.”
The Charter also asks people to oppose international and national policies that privatise healthcare and turn it into a commodity. People must support the rights to reproductive and sexual self‐determination, as well as traditional healing systems and practitioners and their integration into primary healthcare.
What does the Charter say about ‘people’s participation for a healthy world’?
The Charter states that while governments have the primary responsibility for promoting a more equitable approach to health and human rights, ‘civil society groups and movements’, and the media have an important role to play to ensure people's control in policy development and implementation.
The Charter urges people to build and strengthen ‘people’s organisations’; encourage people’s involvement in decision-making in public services; demand that people’s organisations be represented in local, national and international fora; and support local initiatives towards participatory democracy by establishing people‐centred solidarity networks across the world.
Focus and Factoids by Gokul K. P.
People’s Health Assembly
People’s Health Assembly
08 Dec, 2000