Right to health

A broad right to health is recognised by the following international treaties:

  • The 1965 International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination: art. 5 (e) (iv)
  • The 1966 International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights: art. 12
  • The 1979 Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women: arts. 11 (1) (f), 12 and 14 (2) (b)
  • The 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child: art. 24
  • The 1990 International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families: arts. 28, 43 (e) and 45 (c)
  • The 2006 Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities: art. 25.

The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the body responsible for monitoring the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, call the following the “underlying determinants of health”:

1) Safe drinking water and adequate sanitation; 2) Safe food; 3) Adequate nutrition and housing; 4) Healthy working and environmental conditions.

Read more: Human Rights Fact Sheet 31. Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, United Nations Office, Geneva

Interrelated nature of the right to health and the right to water

The United Nations and the World Health Organisation highlight that ill health is associated with the ingestion of or contact with unsafe water, lack of clean water (linked to inadequate hygiene), lack of sanitation, and poor management of water resources and systems. Furthermore, on 30th September 2010 following the fifteenth session of the United Nations Human Rights Council – the body responsible for mainstreaming human rights within the UN system – a resolution was adopted which affirmed that water and sanitation are human rightsResolution A/HRC/15/L.14 derived from the right to an adequate standard of living and inextricably related to the right to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, as well as the right to life and human dignity.

For more see our right to water section, and the website of the Special Rapporteur on the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation.