Research Paper 16, January 2008

Liberalization of Trade in Health Services: Balancing Mode 4 Interests with Obligations to Provide Universal Access to Basic Services.

Health is a human Right. The Right is bestowed on human beings through national constitutions and various international legal instruments that have been signed and ratified by many, if not all, governments of the world. Inherent herein is the Right to access basic health services; which imposes an obligation on States to ensure that these services are universally accessible to all their constituents.

Beyond the obligatory element, universal access to basic health services is also a development goal for which many governments strive to achieve. In a situation where the health sector in many parts of the developing world, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, is in very weak condition, attempts of governments to deliver on this obligation face many challenges.

An increasingly important phenomenon in globalization is the movement of health service suppliers to provide services. While a lot of this movement takes place within and among developed countries, the trend between developing to developed countries is more concerning. As HIV/AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis and other treatable diseases continue to claim lives in untold proportions on the African continent, the exodus of health service suppliers raises serious issues, and has taken centre stage at various international fora.

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