First Global Symposium on Realizing the Right to Health | World Bank Institute (WBI)

The World Bank Institute (WBI) is a global connector of knowledge, learning and innovation for poverty reduction. We connect practitioners and institutions to help them find suitable solutions to their development challenges. With a focus on the "how" of reform, we link knowledge from around the world and scale up innovations. Read More »

First Global Symposium on Realizing the Right to Health

(c) World Bank.

What does right to health really mean, and how do countries ensure that every citizen has fair, sustainable and equitable access to healthcare? All countries would like to expand health care coverage to all citizens but no state can provide everything to everyone all at once, and should also consider that some medical care might not always be necessary. 

Answers to these questions are not obvious and require difficult decisions not only from governments but from multiple stakeholders. This is why, teams representing the judiciary, civil society, private sector, academia, policy makers, journalists and administrators recently came together to debate and search for answers to these questions at the First Global Symposium on the Right to Health and Health Systems in Salzburg, Austria on November 9-14. Participating country teams were comprised of three to five members representing at least three of the stakeholder groups. There were more than 60 participants from 22 countries at this symposium organized by the World Bank Institute (WBI), the Salzburg Global Seminar (SGS), and the Dartmouth Center for Health Care Delivery Science.

“The problems of healthcare are far too complex to be solved without bringing together the best thinkers from across disciplines,” said Al Mulley, Director of the Dartmouth Center for Health Care Delivery Science at the symposium.

WBI Vice President Sanjay Pradhan, who connected via video conference stated that a right to health approach resonates very powerfully with WBI’s broader capacity development approach as it calls for open data and open government, citizens’ empowerment and multi-stakeholder approaches to priority setting.

World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, along with World Bank Vice Presidents Tamar Atinc for the Human Development Network and Sanjay Pradhan provided closing remarks via video conference on the final day of the symposium.

“We fully embrace the rights-based approach to healthcare. In fact, we’ve gone very far in that direction,” Dr. Kim stated. He also noted the symposium as one example where work done by the Dartmouth Center for Health Care Delivery Science is perfectly aligned with the kind of work being done at the World Bank. He expressed his satisfaction on how both institutions “can come together around this important issue.”

During the five day symposium, participants engaged in working sessions, sharing ideas, information, and technology framed around a rights-based approach to health. They produced nine collaborative action plans to advance this approach both in their countries and globally with the spirit of being refined and implemented with the support of peers and organizers.

“We can take advantage of technology that is now available for making [health systems] more efficient, more transparent, and in the end more accountable, so we can really know how resources are being used, where the medicines are going, but also, and more importantly, how citizens are feeling about the healthcare system that they used every day,” said Gabriela Alarcón, a member from the Mexican Institute for Competitiveness.

Achieving the sustainable and equitable realization of the right to health requires innovative approaches to health policy that incorporate multi-stakeholder participation, enhanced transparency and accountability, systematic revision, patient engagement in shared medical decision making, and investment decisions based on the measurement of patients’ needs and preferences. The strategic combination of rights-based approaches to health policy with the science of health care delivery has the potential to ultimately improve health outcomes, particularly among the poor.

Dr. Maha El Rabbat, Professor of Public Health at the University of Cairo, was from the Egyptian delegation and a member of one of the nine teams that created action plans. Her team’s plan focused on improving governance for the delivery of health services by building a robust multi-stakeholder coalition to proactively engage in collaborative efforts to strengthen governance in the health systems. She explained. “By doing this, we are improving the overall transformational change and making a new social contract that reflects the aspirations of the Egyptian population to the right to health.”

The first global symposium on realizing the right to health builds upon the work initially begun in the Latin American region in 2010.  A virtual community regularly brings together over 400 practitioners. In association with the Inter American Court of Human Rights, the first High-Level Symposium for Supreme Court judges took place in San José, Costa Rica in June 2011.


 Watch the recorded webstream.

Comments (1)


I am a current member of Parliament in Sierra Leone, a senior member on the Health and Sanitation committee. I am very much interested in attending this symposium

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
                   __                ____      _ 
__ _ _ _ / /_ __ __ | _ \ (_)
/ _` | | | | | | '_ \ \ \ /\ / / | |_) | | |
| (_| | | |_| | | (_) | \ V V / | _ < | |
\__,_| \__,_| \___/ \_/\_/ |_| \_\ _/ |
Enter the code depicted in ASCII art style.