Human rights and biomedical research funding for the developing world: covering state obligations under the right to health

Health Hum Rights. 1999;4(1):26-58.


The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) obligates states to "take steps individually and through international assistance and co-operation. to the maximum of ¿their available resources" to realize the right to health. This obligation, however, is often dismissed because (1) realizing rights through "international assistance" is thought to intrude on state sovereignty and (2) it is impossible to say what is demanded by the "maximum of. available resources." These problems can be circumvented by "reading down" the mutual assistance clause, so that it demands only that steps be taken on a state's own territory, with its pecuniary resources. Industrialized states could use public funds to research diseases such as malaria, AIDS, and tuberculosis, but they have failed to consider their ICESCR obligations in making science funding decisions. These failures point to ubiquitous and grievous violations of international law.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Benchmarking
  • Decision Making, Organizational
  • Developing Countries*
  • Human Rights* / standards
  • Humans
  • International Cooperation*
  • Research Support as Topic*
  • Social Justice