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US affirms Human Right to Health with signing of Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

December 22, 2010

On December 16, 2010, President Obama announced that the United States will sign the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Among many other rights, the Declaration affirms that indigenous people are entitled to the human right to health:

Article 24, Section 2: Indigenous individuals have an equal right to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health. States shall take the necessary steps with a view to achieving progressively the full realization of this right.

Hesperian joins the People’s Health Movement and tribal leaders across the United States in applauding this move, especially in President Obama’s choice to specifically recognize the health disparities that exist in Native American communities. During a speech at a White House Tribal Nations Conference, President Obama said, “We know that Native Americans die of illnesses like diabetes, pneumonia, flu – even tuberculosis – at far higher rates than the rest of the population. Make no mistake: These disparities represent an ongoing tragedy. They’re cutting lives short, causing untold pain and hardship for Native American families. And closing these gaps is not just a question of policy, it’s a question of our values – it’s a test of who we are as a nation.” Hesperian and the People’s Health Movement have long believed that to achieve good health, communities (and governments) must address the underlying causes of poor health, including poverty, discrimination, and economic disparity.

A detailed, 15-page statement from the U.S. government on their support of the declaration can be found on the United States Mission to the United Nations website.

Graphic courtesy of UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues