Rights Language in the Sustainable Development Agenda: Has Right to Health Discourse and Norms Shaped Health Goals?

Document Type : Hypothesis


1 Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada

2 Department of Public Health, Institute of Tropical Medicine, Antwerp, Belgium

3 School of Public Health, University of Queensland, Brisbane, QLD, Australia


While the right to health is increasingly referenced in Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) discussions, its contribution to global health and development remains subject to considerable debate. This hypothesis explores the potential influence of the right to health on the formulation of health goals in 4 major SDG reports. We analyse these reports through a social constructivist lens which views the use of rights rhetoric as an important indicator of the extent to which a norm is being adopted and/or internalized. Our analysis seeks to assess the influence of this language on goals chosen, and to consider accordingly the potential for rights discourse to promote more equitable global health policy in the future.


Commentaries Published on this Paper

  • Human Rights Discourse in the Sustainable Development Agenda Avoids Obligations and Entitlements; Comment on “Rights Language in the Sustainable Development Agenda: Has Right to Health Discourse and Norms Shaped Health Goals?”

          Abstract | PDF

  • Searching for the Right to Health in the Sustainable Development Agenda; Comment on “Rights Language in the Sustainable Development Agenda: Has Right to Health Discourse and Norms Shaped Health Goals?”

          Abstract | PDF

  • Health Rights and Realization; Comment on “Rights Language in the Sustainable Development Agenda: Has Right to Health Discourse and Norms Shaped Health Goals?”

          Abstract | PDF


Authors’ Response to the Commentaries

  • From Almost Empty to Half Full? A Response to Recent Commentaries

          Abstract | PDF


Main Subjects

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