Global constitutionalism, responsibility to protect, and extra-territorial obligations to realize the right to health : time to overcome the double standard (once again)

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Gorik Ooms, Rachel Hammonds


If human rights are "inalienable rights of all members of the human family", as is enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, then no government should be allowed to deny people of them. When some governments fail to realize them for the people under their jurisdiction, the international community has a responsibility to step in. This extra-territorial effect of human rights was not included in the original conception of human rights. It is of recent date, and, in practice, limited to interventions to end severe violations of civil and political human rights. For economic, social and cultural human rights, extra-territorial obligations are still contested. In this paper, we elaborate three contentions: first, that the realization of social human rights requires the acceptance of and compliance with extra-territorial obligations; second, that compliance with extra-territorial obligations would help transform the international assistance paradigm from charity into legal obligation; and third, that for global constitutionalism to succeed in improving the fairness of the international legal order requires acceptance of the indivisibility of human rights.

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art_10.1186_s12939-014-0068-4.pdf (open)

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