Building a regional health agenda: a rights-based approach to health in South America? The case of UNASUR and access to healthcare and medicines

Abstract

Attention to health policies in Southern regional organizations reveals a new ‘social turn’ in the regional political economy of international cooperation. The aims of this paper are twofold. First, it aims to establish to what extent the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) has adopted and sustained policy interventions committed to addressing social inequities and asymmetries in relation to health, as indicated by regional policy agendas, policy development processes, and resourcing. Second, it seeks to understand how UNASUR is in practice mobilising national and regional actors in support of such policies. Our analysis of documentary and interview sources of evidence leads us to draw the following conclusions. First, we argue that the UNASUR regional framework has a committed social equity/rights focus in relation to access to health care and medicines with a clear focus on reducing asymmetries between countries. Second, although UNASUR does not enforce national commitments on health and medicines, it nonetheless plays a role in expanding domestic policy horizons and policy capacities. In this respect, we find that UNASUR interventions lead to initiatives and actions to implement reforms, set targets and define goals nationally. Third, in the global arena, UNASUR enhances the visibility and ‘voices’ of the member states. The normative framework provides means for the diffusion of ideas that also allows some distancing from the legacy of the neoliberal framework that has otherwise characterised contemporary histories of regional integration in South America.

Citation

Herrero, M.B.; Loza, J. Building a regional health agenda: a rights-based approach to health in South America? The case of UNASUR and access to healthcare and medicines. Open University, Milton Keynes, UK (2015) 54 pp.

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