New People’s Charter for Health Adopted

A new vision of `Health for All’ based on abolition of all political, social and economic inequalities was adopted unanimously by hundreds of delegates from around the globe at the first ever People’s Health Assembly -PHA 2000 in Savar, on the outskirts of Dhaka, the Bangladeshi capital in December 2000.

To cries of `Health for All - Now !’ the PHA 2000 participants numbering some 1,500 from over 92 countries endorsed a new People’s Charter for Health framed after lengthy debates, discussions and participation from people from all walks of life from around the world.

“Inequality, poverty, exploitation, violence and injustice are at the root of ill-health and the deaths of poor and marginalised people” declares the new Charter calling upon the people of the world to build popular movements to pressure governments to recognise Health as a fundamental human right.

`Health for All’, it says “means that powerful interests have to be challenged, that globalisation has to be opposed, and that political economic priorities have to be drastically changed.”

“ Illness and death every day anger us. Not because there are people who get sick or because there are people who die. We are angry because many illnesses and deaths have their roots in the economic and social problems that are imposed on us” says a voice from Central America quoted in the Charter.

The new Charter also calls for a reiteration of the demands for a universal, comprehensive Primary Health Care envisioned in the 1978 Alma Ata declaration as the basis for formulating policies related to health. ''Governments have a fundamental responsibility to ensure universal access to quality health care, education and other social services according to the people's needs, not according to their ability to pay,'' the charter laid down as a basic principle.

The new People’s Charter for Health adopted at PHA 2000 is in some ways a continuation of the Alma Ata declaration but differs significantly in its emphasis that political, social and economic transformation are basic pre-requisites for ensuring Health for All. The new Charter also clearly refers to the role of environmental issues that have an impact on public health.

Leading a list of demands set out by the charter is one that calls for ''transformation of the global trading system so that it ceases to violate social, environmental, economic and health rights of people and begins to discriminate positively in favour of countries of the South.''

The Charter also demands the cancellation of Third World debt, the radical transformation of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund and the effective regulation of Transnational Corporations. Very significantly the Charter calls upon the people of the world to `challenge growth-centered economic theories and replace them with alternatives that create humane and sustainable societies’.

The organizers of the PHA 2000 plan to include representatives of all major regions around the world within their consultative group to carry on with the post-PHA 2000 activities. These activities will include, among other things, campaigns to frame and adopt Health Charters at the national and local levels addressing specific public health issues.

Click here for the full text of the Charter