Regional and Inter-Regional Economic Rules and the Enforcement of the Right to Health: The Case of Colombia

Publication Date: 
01 December 2015
Publication Language: 
Appearing in: 
Global Social Policy

The regional policy level is often seen as a (potential) source of progressive policy-making in health (and in social policy more widely), complementing or substituting national policy levels, which are perceived as underperforming. While it can certainly be argued that there are important opportunities to adopt regional approaches to tackle border-crossing health issues, this article draws the attention to the fact that the linkage between (inter-)regional and national policy levels is not uni-directional. While in some instances the regional level may indeed take the lead in the promotion of (the right to) health, in other instances it may well be the other way round. This article focuses on the case of Colombia, where international economic rules have deeply permeated public policies in the health sector. On one hand, Colombia has been opening markets through the conclusion of regional integration arrangements (e.g. Andean Community and the Pacific Alliance) and the new generation of Free Trade Agreements. On the other hand, Colombia has been one of the most active emerging countries in promoting the right to health as a justiciable fundamental right, in line with the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights of the United Nations mainly due to the judicial activism of the Colombian Constitutional Court with interesting implications for regional social governance. The article shows that national courts can play an important role in the protection of the right to health in a context of economic integration and the absence of regional balancing policies.