Human rights combines with public health in lecture


Team Leader of the World Health Organization’s Gender, Equity and Human Rights Team Veronica Magar lead the fourth UNC Health and Human Rights lecture on “Health and Human Rights in the Sustainable Development Goal Era."

A fully packed auditorium at the FedEx Global Education Center housed the fourth annual UNC Health and Human Rights Lecture Series on Tuesday. Professor Benjamin Meier first organized the series back in 2012.

“This is a really great way of bringing together the amazing medical and public health resources here at UNC with our legal community, and also our public policy community, to understand how we can develop a better world and realize the highest attainable standards,” Meier said.

He said the uniqueness of the lecture series and its interdisciplinary nature are important.

“In some ways, there is no other lecture anywhere in the world that focuses on human rights under international law as a basis for public health,” he said.

The lecture series focuses on bringing together three disciplines: public health, human rights and public health policy. In doing so, Meier said he hopes students will view human rights as a moral compass when discussing public health issues.

Veronica Magar, a UNC alumna and the leader of the Gender, Equity and Human Rights Team at the World Health Organization, spoke at this year’s lecture.

The World Health Organization recently named UNC its academic partner to research how to implement the U.N. Secretary General’s Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health.

The United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, passed by the General Assembly of the U.N. in September, was the main thrust of Magar’s lecture.

“It requires us to identify and not only address inequalities across countries, but within countries,” Magar said, when discussing the new sustainable development goals.

She said there are a wide array of inequalities: gender inequality, transportation inequality and inequality among ethnic groups.

Although the U.N. has succeeded in reducing disparities, Magar said there are also limitations.

“I’m going to say something a little bit provocative,” Magar said. “We will always have inequality.”

There is still much work to be done within the sphere of public health, and students can act as an all-important instrument for change, Magar said.

“It can come in the form of research and dissertations. Also, I think there’s different kinds of learning and education, and one is being an engaged citizen in some of these issues that we’ve been trying to figure out,” she said in an interview.

At a reception after the lecture, students had the opportunity to speak to both Magar and Meier.

Sophomore Anna Dodson said she appreciated the goals Magar listed.

“I really liked hearing about the new current goals and how they applied to gender inequality,” Dodson said.

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