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Global health with justice

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ALTHOUGH the title of Gostin’s latest book, Global health law, may suggest a dry legal tome, it is, in fact, a highly readable exploration of the major issues and debates in the field of international health policy and governance. For those new to the field, Gostin offers an insightful overview of the overarching legal and policy regime and key institutional actors. However, the book is not a neutral primer in the basics of health law. Rather, Gostin’s ultimate goal is prescriptive: he sets forth in Chapter 1 his vision for “global health with justice” as requiring a more equitable distribution of health resources than the current status quo. In turn, much of the book is devoted to making the case for the political, legal and institutional reform that would be necessary to achieve this end.

“Global health law” is not a clearly defined set of legal instruments — rather, it includes both “hard” law (treaties that are binding on state parties) and “soft” law (non-binding agreements by states). Given this complex legal landscape, as well as the fact that much of the relevant legal architecture does not specify concrete obligations for state parties, Gostin takes a more expansive approach to the field. He examines not only international legal frameworks and relevant agreements, but also good governance practices for key institutions, such as the World Health Organization, as well…