Dr Sambhu N Banik, professor of psychology and counseling at Bowie State University, has been invited to chair the section on health as a human right at the Global Consultative Meeting on Human Rights and the Right to Health in Bangalore, February 15-16.
Banik also serves as the commissioner, Human Rights Commission of Maryland, and is on the President's Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities. Then President George W Bush appointed him, and his term runs through next year.
The meeting, titled 'Global Consultative Meeting on the Right of Health: A Fundamental Human Right for Health and Medical Care in Preventive and Promotive Health Care The Need for Health Commission,' is being organized by the Sheffield, United Kingdom-based Commonwealth Association for Mental Handicap & Development Disabilities. It is run by Dr V R Pandurangi, CAMHADD's project director for the Bangalore Healthy City Initiative.
Pandurangi was in Geneva recently to meet the staff of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and also with the health and human rights adviser at the World Health Organization. He said both UNHCHR and WHO were "strongly supportive of promoting health and human rights as an integral component of the Bangalore Healthy City Initiative."
He said the Bangalore meeting would be inaugurated jointly by India's Law Minister M Veerappa Moily and M Venkatachaliah, a former chief justice of India and chairperson, National Human Rights Commission.
Pandurangi said, "Health is the centerpiece of all our developmental efforts, and this consultative meeting should consider the health determinants of development while we stress the social determinants of health."
Pandurangi said the Bangalore meeting would have sessions on the role of international organizations, agencies, the ministries of health, health universities, non-government organizations and civil societies and address the role and responsibilities of India's human rights commission at the national and state levels.
Others sessions would feature a human rights-based approach to non-communicable diseases prevention, argue for making the management of health crises in natural calamities as a fundamental human right, and discuss establishing national and state health commissions as recommended by a special UNHCHR rapporteur. All of this, he said, would be disseminated in the form of a Bangalore Declaration.
Banik, who was also a senior official in the Bush administration serving as executive director of the President's Council on Mental Retardation, said he would present a paper on his experiences as commissioner at two human rights commissions and address the importance of every citizen being afforded equal protection.
"These are inalienable rights, not just for the powerful and affluent but for the masses who, in a country like India, still remain in the throes of poverty," he said. If India hopes to become a major global power, he added, providing health care is essential for its progress.
Besides teaching at Bowie State University, Banik, a resident of Bethesda, Maryland, has a private practice in Washington, DC, and is an adjunct at the Union Institute of the University of Cincinnati, Ohio, where he advises doctoral students.