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Ratification of human rights treaties: no effect on health and social indicators.

The ratification of a human rights treaty is a symbolic gesture and indicates a country's commitment. However, non-compliance is rampant and people have questioned the value of such treaties. This study assesses whether ratification of human rights treaties is associated with improved health and social indicators. Data for health (including HIV prevalence, and maternal, infant and child mortality) and social indicators (child labour, human development index, sex gap, and corruption index), were gathered from UN and WHO data on 170 countries that had ratified at least one major UN human rights treaty. 65% of the countries had ratified all six treaties. Analysis showed that none of the health and social indicators were associated with the number of treaties signed, even when stratified by global burden of disease region. There was no difference in rate of change in health status between countries that did and did not ratify the treaties during 10 years. Established market economy states had consistently improved health compared with less wealthy ones, but this was not associated with treaty ratification. These findings do not necessarily mean that human rights treaties have no effect, because they are important in legal arguments for the right to essential medicines and public health. The authors call for stringent requirements for ratification of treaties, improved accountability mechanisms to monitor compliance with treaty obligations, and financial support for the realisation of the right to health.

(1.) Palmer A, Tomkinson J, Phung C, et al. Does ratification of human-rights treaties have effects on population health? Lancet 2009;373(9679): 1987-92.

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Title Annotation:ROUND UP: Law and policy
Publication:Reproductive Health Matters
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:May 1, 2009
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