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Open Access Highly Accessed Open Badges Debate

Health, human rights and mobilization of resources for health

Reidar K Lie

Author affiliations

Department of Clinical Bioethics, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20892, USA

Department of Philosophy, University of Bergen, Sydnesplassen 7, N-5007 Bergen, Norway

Citation and License

BMC International Health and Human Rights 2004, 4:4  doi:10.1186/1472-698X-4-4

Published: 8 October 2004



There has been an increased interest in the role of a human rights framework to mobilize resources for health.


This paper argues that the human rights framework does provide us with an appropriate understanding of what values should guide a nation's health policy, and a potentially powerful means of moving the health agenda forward. It also, however, argues that appeals to human rights may not necessarily be effective at mobilizing resources for specific health problems one might want to do something about. Specifically, it is not possible to argue that a particular allocation of scarce health care resources should be changed to a different allocation, benefiting other groups. Lack of access to health care services by some people only shows that something has to be done, but not what should be done.


The somewhat weak claim identified above together with the obligation to realize progressively a right to health can be used to mobilize resources for health.