Myanmar adopts new approach to discussing the right to health

Bangkok (Thailand), 24 November 2015 - The right to health is a fundamental human right, all individuals are entitled to a reasonable minimum standard of health care. States therefore have the responsibility to ensure they provide conditions under which their citizens have access to a minimum standard of health care. Despite this however, some States have yet to endorse the right to health as a fundamental human right, or have shortcomings in ensuring access to health for their citizens.

Progress was made towards correcting these issues recently as Myanmar made significant improvements to their conception of the right to health. These improvements, contained in Myanmar's Universal Periodic Review (UPR), include listing the right to health as a priority and the discussion of harm reduction practices and voluntary treatment for drug users. This new information is important as it indicates the emergence of a new approach to drug policy by the Myanmar government, as well as a growing acceptance that HIV is a fundamental part of the right to health.

Mr. Olivier Lermet, UNODC's Regional Advisor for HIV/AIDS, called Myanmar's policy shift a "milestone," and suggested it would help improve government accountability on health related issues. "This is another step in the right direction, and is a result of the continued collaborative efforts of the UN and its partners." Mr. Lermet commented following the UPR's release. He specifically noted the efforts by civil society groups, groups of people who use drugs, and government champions, in addition to both UNAIDS and UNODC that to helped facilitate this.

The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is a unique process which involves a review of the human rights records of all UN Member States. The UPR is a State-driven process, under the auspices of the Human Rights Council, which provides the opportunity for each State to declare what actions they have taken to improve the human rights situations in their countries and to fulfill their human rights obligations. As one of the main features of the Council, the UPR is designed to ensure equal treatment for every country when their human rights situations are assessed.

More information about the UNODC's role in changes to Myanmar's drug policy can be found here: