The Transnational Human Rights Review

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English Abstract

Behind glib claims of universalism in global health, evidenced by the push for universal health coverage in the Sustainable Development Goals 2030 (SDGs), lies an uncomfortable truth about the unequal, uneven and broken system of the existing framework for global health governance. A situation made more evident by the behaviour of powerful states of the Global North at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic through the hoarding of vaccines, refusal to accommodate waivers to the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) regime to allow cheaper versions of the Covid-19 vaccines to be manufactured for the Global South and the preference for securitisation over solidarity in the response to the pandemic. The rhetoric of “vaccine apartheid” was deployed by WHO Director General to describe this lack of solidarity by Global North States (particularly in the context of vaccines procurement). However, this paper argues contrarily that the colonial foundations of the current framework for global health governance, which does not take Third World lives as seriously as those of citizens of the West, has functioned exactly as designed. This has led to the “othering” of Third World peoples, generating pathologies of suffering and vulnerabilities in their encounter with global health governance frameworks. Informed by critical Third World Approaches to International Law (TWAIL) this paper makes the case for decolonising existing frameworks for global health governance to promote health capabilities in the Global South.

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