Citizenship is more than where you were born, what's on your passport, or your right to vote. Your nationality is a legal bond between you and your state.

The government of a nation is a duty bearer. This means obligations to respect, profect, and fulfill human rights of her people.

The right to health. . .

The right to health comes from the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR, 1966) which elaborates on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) specifically for the right to work and labour rights, right to health, right to education, and right to an adequate standard of living. 

The World Health Organisation (WHO) here elaborates on the duty governments have with the right to health (Article 12, ICESCR): 

  • Respect: Don't interfere with the enjoyment of the right to health.
  • Protect: Ensuring that third parties (non-state actors) do not infringe upon the enjoyment of the right to health.
  • Fulfil: Taking positive steps to realize the right to health.

Occupational needs & rights in displacement. . .

The World Federation of Occuaptional Therapists (WFOT) position paper on Human Displacement (2012) likewise calls occupational therapists to speak and act to respect, protect, and fulfil occupational needs and rights of displaced people. For example:

  • Respect: The profession of occupational therapy needs public voice should a government is about to take a regressive step effectively obstructing occupational needs and impacting occuapational rights.
  • Protect: The profession of occupational therapy enables participation and works for enabling environments so that people are not rendered excluded because of diagnosis, disability, displacement or other vulnerability.  
  • Fulfil: The profession of occuptional therapy creates opportunities (eg social, livelihood, vocational) so displaced people can participate in ways that build civil society, transform conflict, and strengthen social cohesion for everyone.

Dimensions of health. . .

Health rights according to WHO here, are measured in terms of whether they are available (eg enough public health care, goods, service), accessible to everyone in the state (no discrimination, physically accessible, economically accessible, information must be accessible), acceptable (eg ethical and responsive to culture, gender, context), and quality (eg valid and appropriate)

The profession of occupational therapy (OT) can use the same framework toreflect on our profession. For example: measure how many countries have OTs engaging local displaced populations (available), numbers of OTs in paid and volunteer roles (accessible), how culturally & linguistically responsive our services are (acceptable), and the amount of research and evaluation (quality). 

Progressive realization. . .

The World Health Organisation (WHO) describes the "right to health" as a citizen claiming a set of social arrangements - norms, institutions, laws, and an enabling environment to access and enjoy the best health possibly. WHO clearly states this includes access to health care and the social determinants of health. Read more from WHO about the linkages between health and human rights here.  

Some human rights must be realised immediately, whilst others like health are realized progressively. This acknowledges the economic means a nation has. So states are accountable to their citizens and the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights to be taking proactive steps towards realization of the right.  

World Flags

Photo thanks to Horia Varlan, and quote below by R.Jackson (1892-1954)

"It is not the function of our Government to keep the citizen from falling into error; it is the function of the citizen to keep the Government from falling into error"

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