Health and Human Rights

Understanding and negotiating the relationship between global health and human rights

The commitments governments undertake in international human rights instruments affect national laws and policies, as well as the structuring of programmes in health. International human rights play a role in global governance of health as well.  In today’s world, effective policymaking and diplomacy related to public health issues calls for a familiarity with the frameworks and mechanisms related to human rights. The development of international law and policy-making, as well as the growing body of scholarship on health and human rights, point to various perspectives that should be explored to gain a better understanding this complex and dynamic field, in particular the scope and impact of the “right to health” under international law, the use of other human rights to achieve equitable health outcomes, and the role of human rights commitments in counterbalancing the implementation of other bodies of law and policy in a globalised world.

Who is this programme for?


Policy-makers and practitioners involved in international health cooperation and/or human rights practice, such as:

  • Government representatives engaged in international health or international human rights policy and law, including diplomatic missions
  • Representatives from international, regional and non-governmental organisations
  • Professionals in philanthropic organisations
  • Scholars and researchers from academic institutions

programme Objectives


  • Increase understanding of the role played by human rights law and practice in the governance of global health
  • Increase critical appreciation about the benefits and limits of a human rights approach in balancing diverse interests with the aim of securing equitable health outcomes
  • Reflect on the different roles played by the main actors and institutions, and on whether and how to access them and their mechanisms
  • Enhance participants’ negotiation skills through a differentiated analysis of actors and their mandate, role and interests, as well as by immersing into a simulated negotiation based on a real on-going scenario
  • Promote a network of health diplomats and foster peer learning.

Programme overview


This three-day course is designed to increase the understanding of participants on the role of international human rights law and practice in global health governance and diplomacy.

The course will explore the following questions:

  • What are the international standards and mechanisms that relate to the intersection of health and human rights?
  • What does it mean in practice to set out a “right to health,” and how might such a right be implemented in laws, policies and programs?
  • What is (and should be) the role of courts in enforcing health-related rights?
  • What are the key elements of ‘rights-based approaches’ in programmes and policies, with reference to specific health issues and affected populations?
  • Under international law, what limitations can be imposed on human rights out of concern for public health?

This course is designed to be highly interactive, drawing on national and international professional experiences of participants through a multi-disciplinary learning process. It also includes a simulated exercise through which participants will be able to apply the concepts addressed during the course.

Duration & Location


The Executive Course on Health and Human Rights is a 3-day full time course held at the Graduate Institute’s Villa Barton Campus.  Sessions normally run from 09:00 to 18:00. Participants will take part in an evening negotiation simulation exercise.

The course will take place at the Graduate Institute, Villa Barton, Rue de Lausanne 132, Geneva.




Tuition for attending the full programme is CHF 1,800. The tuition fee includes teaching costs, course material and the use of Graduate Institute facilities. It does not include travel and accommodation expenses nor travel, health or personal insurances. Participants are advised to contract their own insurance as the Global Health Centre and the Graduate Institute decline all responsibilities concerning medical expenses incurred during the stay in Switzerland.




Participants who complete the course will receive a certificate of attendance from the Graduate Institute. Participants have the possibility to complement the course with a research paper and earn 3 ECTS (European Credit Transfer System). For CAS participants, this course may also be recognised as one of the elective courses for Module 2 of the Graduate Institute's Certificate of Advanced Studies (CAS) in Global Health Diplomacy




Up to 25 participants are admitted to the course.



Participants are responsible for their own accommodation during the course. Further information will be sent to participants upon acceptance to the course.

Course Directors


  • Gian Luca Burci, Adjunct Professor of International Law, the Graduate Institute, Geneva. Director, Joint Georgetown/Graduate Institute LL.M. in Global Health Law and Governance. Former Legal Counsel, World Health Organization.
  • Alicia Ely Yamin, Lecturer on Law and Senior Fellow, Petrie-Flom Center for Health Law Policy, Biotechnology and Bioethics, Harvard Law School