Professor Roojin Habibi leads a human rights-based approach to global health emergencies

Faculty of Law - Common Law Section
Faculty member
Human rights

By Common Law

Communication, Faculty of Law

emergency health preparedness
The COVID-19 pandemic exposed the vulnerabilities of health care systems across the globe. Existing inequalities were exacerbated by the spreading crisis, amplifying the suffering of disadvantaged communities. Human rights were too often overlooked entirely.

Professor Roojin Habibi has spent the last three years working to counter this distressing pattern with fresh guidance on how to promote and secure human rights in public health emergencies. In partnership with the Global Health Law Consortium (GHLC) – an academic network of global health law researchers – and the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), Professor Habibi has led efforts to create a framework for a human rights-based response to a global public health emergency. The result is a publication entitled Principles and Guidelines on Human Rights and Public Health Emergencies (the Principles), which collects insights from more than 150 experts from around the world, including legal scholars, health workers, human rights advocates and many more.  

The new framework assembles a series of guidelines for governments and civil society, informing States and other relevant stakeholders of the human rights obligations that are essential to implementing an effective and responsible response to public health emergencies. The Principles are, in essence, a response to the lack of any kind of unified international plan elaborating how States could have or should have responded to the COVID-19 pandemic in a rights-based manner. While the creation of Principles was prompted by COVID-19, the guidelines are intended to be applicable and adaptable to future public health emergencies, offering recommendations on topics ranging from lockdowns to access to vaccines.

“The Principles aim to be more than static guidelines. Their essence thrives through interpretation, application, and discourse among communities of scholars, advocates, practitioners and human rights defenders,” says Professor Habibi. “We extend an open invitation to all interested parties to collaborate on the implementation of these Principles, from local to global settings.”

In addition to the Principles publication, Professor Habibi also wrote and directed a short documentary film entitled Beyond Siracusa: Human Rights in Times of Public Health Emergencies, which examines the motivation for creating the Principles, as well as the process of assembling an international team of experts to draft the guidelines.

Read more about the new publication and film.

Congratulations to Professor Habibi on realizing this important project!