Pandemic Inequalities: Human Rights and Global Health






COVID-19 has laid bare staggering inequalities within and between countries, as well as legitimacy crises that have been growing for decades in both democratic institutions and global governance. In this context, how should we understand the suffering we or others are experiencing, and the dramatically disparate health and social impacts of this novel coronavirus on diverse groups across our societies and the globe? And what legal, political and economic responses should we demand?


This seminar provides some historical context for understanding the structural injustices that COVID-19 has revealed in the United States, and around the world, and specifically encourages critical reflection on the role of international human rights law and strategies in creating progressive social change. Tracing the development of the intersections between health, law and rights, with an emphasis on women’s health and reproductive justice, the seminar explores a dual reality. On the one hand, evolution in legal norms in both international human rights law, and much constitutional law around the globe, has been extraordinary in respect of health and other economic and social rights in recent decades. On the other hand, just as social rights were being articulated, the global embrace of neoliberalism, and the economic integration of markets, and the adjustments to internal laws and institutions that ensued, crippled the potential for democratic responses to those claims, nowhere more evidently than in health.


Looking forward, the seminar explores how, together with other movements for social and gender justice, critical human rights praxis could contribute to more boldly progressive responses to COVID-19, with implications for other global threats such as the climate crisis as well as broader political economy questions. Throughout the seminar, students are encouraged to reflect on their own personal narratives as well as prevalent national and global discourses in relation to the question of when misfortune becomes injustice, in health and beyond.


Additional Information:

Faculty: Alicia Yamin

School: Harvard Law School
Semester: Full Spring Term
Time: 8:00AM - 10:00AM Thursday

HLS 3067