The corporate responsibility to respect the human right to health (care) in Africa
Assuming that health is a human right and that it implies ‘at least’ equal access to basic medical care (let’s call it the ‘minimalist approach’), what would such an interpretation imply for the corporate responsibility to respect the human right to health in Africa? The minimalist approach, the idea that medical care is an essential and minimal component of the human right to health, emphasizes the notion of ‘costs’, goods, or services and by doing so, shies an interesting light on how we should determine and interpret the corporate responsibility to respect the human right to health in Africa at three levels. First, I will address the issue of firms as duty-bearers of human rights obligations, and especially of the human right to medical care in Africa. All actors and institutions that have relative or absolute control over the goods and services that contribute to the health of individuals through access to medical care should be considered moral agents of the human right to health care. Insofar as firms have that relative or absolute control over goods and services related to health care, they should be considered as duty-bearers of the human right to health. Second, I will address the nature and the normative implication of the human right to health care’s obligations of firms and the specific impact that the focus on the African context and/intellectual tradition play in understanding the notion of ‘respect’. The emphasis on access to medical care as a basic component of the human right to health reinforces the essentially positive character of all rights (Holmes and Sunstein, 1999: 35-48). To be respected, all rights, whether civil and political or socio-economic and cultural, require access to essential goods and services and therefore the proactive involvement and not just an abstention of doing harm from suitable moral agents. Since all rights are positive rights, the corporate responsibility to respect the human right to health care, especially in Africa, goes beyond ‘do no harm’ and requires both a proactive involvement and a responsive attitude from firms. Finally, I will address the content of the obligations of firms regarding medical care in Africa. The minimal approach shows how necessary is an efficient economy within just political institutions that will not only meet the pressing health care needs of citizens, but also adopt the inevitable compromises between health care needs and other crucial needs. As key components of any efficient economy, all firms, and not only those that produce or provide health care goods and services, bear some responsibility in advancing the human right to health care by acting in a way that make and keep the economy efficient and political institutions just.
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Yaounde Seminar 2020-2021 - Ethics, Public Policy and Health
Yaounde, Catholic University of Central Africa