Does ratification of human-rights treaties have effects on population health?

Lancet. 2009 Jun 6;373(9679):1987-92. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(09)60231-2.


Human-rights treaties indicate a country's commitment to human rights. Here, we assess whether ratification of human-rights treaties is associated with improved health and social indicators. Data for health (including HIV prevalence, and maternal, infant, and child [<5 years] mortalities) and social indicators (child labour, human development index, sex gap, and corruption index), gathered from 170 countries, showed no consistent associations between ratification of human-rights treaties and health or social outcomes. Established market economy states had consistently improved health compared with less wealthy settings, but this was not associated with treaty ratification. The status of treaty ratification alone is not a good indicator of the realisation of the right to health. We suggest the need for stringent requirements for ratification of treaties, improved accountability mechanisms to monitor compliance of states with treaty obligations, and financial assistance to support the realisation of the right to health.

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Child Mortality
  • Civil Rights / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Civil Rights / statistics & numerical data
  • Developed Countries / statistics & numerical data
  • Developing Countries / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Global Health*
  • HIV Infections / epidemiology
  • Health Status Indicators*
  • Human Rights Abuses* / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Human Rights Abuses* / prevention & control
  • Human Rights* / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • International Cooperation*
  • Life Expectancy
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Maternal Mortality
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Public Health / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Public Health / statistics & numerical data*
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Statistics, Nonparametric
  • United Nations