International consultation confirms national public health law infrastructure as a priority

4 May 2009



Professor Roger Magnusson with Consultation delegates (second from left)

On 26-28 April, Professor Roger Magnusson attended and served as rapporteur for a consultation on public health law co-convened by the International Development Law Organisation (IDLO), the World Health Organisation, and the O'Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law at Georgetown University. The Rapporteur's report can be found here.

Hosted at IDLO headquarters in Rome, the aim of the consultation was to explore opportunities for using law to improve health in developing countries, through action within the international legal arena, within national legal frameworks, through networking, and capacity-building. 

Although representatives attended in their own capacity as experts, a wide range of countries and international agencies were represented, including China, Malawi, Uganda, South Africa, Kyrgyzstan, Egypt, the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Netherlands, the United Nations University, the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO), the World Bank, UNDP, UNAIDS - together with IDLO, WHO and the O'Neill Institute.

One important outcome of the consultation was the agreement, with the support of IDLO/WHO, to begin a process for the development of guidelines identifying the key functions and legal components of a national public health law. 

"Many developing countries have fragmented, and outdated public health laws, with inadequate mandates and means of enforcement," Professor Magnusson said. 

"In other countries, public health laws are moribund and have fallen into disuse, and the criminal law now fills the gap. 

"While law cannot, by itself, summon up the resources for an effective public health infrastructure, the existence of a coherent legal infrastructure for the performance of core public health functions plays an important part in addressing the material and environmental conditions that create the conditions for a healthy population."

The above photo shows some of the participants at the IDLO/WHO/O'Neill Institute consultation.  Front row, left to right: Monica Das Gupta (World Bank), Oscar Cabrera (O'Neill Institute), Jason Sigurdson (UNAIDS), Tinyade Kachika (lawyer, Malawi), Adila Hassim (AIDS Law Project, Sough Africa), Harriet Musoke (lawyer and women's reproductive health risks activist, Uganda), Professor Larry Gostin (O'Neill Institute, Georgetown University), William Onzivu (Bradford University Law School, UK), Obijiofor Aginam (United Nations University, Japan), Sergei Shevchuk (USAID-funded ZdravPlus project, Kyrgyzstan).  Back row, left to right: Professor Roger Magnusson (Sydney Law School), Vivek Divan (Royal Tropical Institute, Amsterdam), Jackie Tumwine (Global Health Law candidate, Georgetown University), Professor ChenGuang Wang (Tsinghua Univesity,China), Abdelaziz Saleh (Egypt), Helena Nygren-Krug (World Health Organisation, Geneva), Dominique Njinkeu (International Lawyers and Economists Against Poverty/Canada), David Patterson (HIV, Law & Human Rights Manager, IDLO),Professor  Aart Hendriks (University of Leiden, Netherlands), Namizata Meite (Program Legal Officer, IDLO).

Read the press release issued by the O'Neill Institute for Global and National Health Law: "O'Neill Institute, WHO and IDLO Call on Governments to Strengthen Public Health Laws", 30 April 2009.

Contact: Professor Roger Magnusson

Phone: +61 2 9351 0211

Email: 15603a4e0602171c185e05710c29345d59502c11670f31