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Human rights as sovereignty: debunking the myth of progressive realisation in relation to the right

When: Tuesday, 16 October 2018 - Tuesday, 16 October 2018
Where: Parktown Health Sciences Campus
Lecture Theatre 1, 5th Floor, Wits Medical School
Start time:13:00
Enquiries:  or (011)717 2190


RSVP to  or (011)717 2190

The Steve Biko Centre for Bioethics hosts this Faculty Lecture to be presented by A. Kayum Ahmed.

The right to health is intrinsically connected to the right to life and human dignity since these rights are essentially about life and death. However, while the rights to life and human dignity are listed as non-derogable rights in the South African Constitution, the right to health is limited by available state resources and subject to progressive realisation. This limitation on the right to health in both international and South African law, allows states to justify their failure to fully implement this right and gives rise to the idea of human rights as sovereignty—the appropriation of human rights discourses by states to construct a self-serving narrative that entrenches sovereign power and legitimizes state failure using the language of human rights and progressive realization. Using sovereignty as a framework for analysis, the myth of progressive realisation in relation to the right to health can be more fully deconstructed and debunked.

Ahmed, Division Director for Access to Medicines & Accountability in the Public Health Program at the Open Society Foundations in New York.

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