Global Health Law Groningen: a successful launch in a world in turmoil

On Monday 26 January this year we officially launched our new Research Centre ‘Global Health Law Groningen’ (GHLG). Throughout the year we have devoted our energies to discuss a range of major challenges in our field. Our Centre has expanded and isnow including more than ten researchers from the University of Groningen and visiting researchers from around the globe.

This Blog, which is connected to our Research Centre, has become an important platform for scholars in the field of international health law. Over the past year, it has paid attention to important global health themes, including the ebola crisis, tobacco control regulation, access to medicines, health issues of asylum seekers and refugees, climate change, and access to abortion services. Several scholars, students and practitioners from the University of Groningen and beyond have contributed to our Blog. We thank everyone for their input and we hope to continue on the same footing in the upcoming year.

GHLG was launched in a world in turmoil and it goes way beyond the scope of this blog to pay attention to everything that demands our attention. Let us therefore conclude the year by devoting a few words to the large number of asylum seekers and migrants arriving in Europe as one of the most striking and shocking events during the past year. We have seen a large influx of refugees coming from Syria, Eritrea, Afghanistan and other countries where people face armed conflict and economic hardship. The status and position of these asylum seekers and migrants has been hotly debated in the media. It has been impossible to turn a blind eye to the dire conditions under which asylum seekers and migrants travel to other places in the hope to find a safe place to live.

Once arrived, many new and difficult issues arise. From a health and human rights perspective, we may ask questions like: Can a rejected asylum seeker with a serious health condition be sent back to his/her home country? Which health services should be provided to non-nationals, and how can this best be organized at a practical level? What has to be provided in addition to health care in order to ensure their ‘highest attainable standard of physical and mental health’? There is a potential tension between maintaining a good and affordable health system and allowing more people to profit from the system. Providing and paying for healthcare is costly, and healthcare costs keep going up, while governmental budgets are limited.

Yet there is a threshold of decency below which no country should fall. Based on human rights standards, the dignity, wellbeing and health of everyone residing on a state’s territory is to be guaranteed. But the situation also exerts a call on our individual responsibility and sense of solidarity. We cannot let people starve on the streets, leave them untreated for serious conditions, or send them back to their home country when they are seriously ill.

Perhaps John Donne’s poem ‘No man is an island’ (1624) van provide inspiration:

No man is an island,

Entire of itself,

Every man is a piece of the continent,

A part of the main.

If a clod be washed away by the sea,

Europe is the less.

As well as if a promontory were.

As well as if a manor of thy friend’s

Or of thine own were:

Any man’s death diminishes me,

Because I am involved in mankind,

And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;

It tolls for thee.


We hope that 2016 will be as productive as the past year. Thank you, readers, for your support and we wish you lots of health, success and inspiration in the new year!



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