Catholic Secretariat Disagrees With Govt White Paper

The National Catholic Secretariat (NCS) says it disagrees with the government’s white paper on the recommendations of the Constitution Review Commission (CRC) which directed that the right to health be expressed under the chapter of the Constitution dealing with the Directive Principle of State Policy. Rather, the NCS has advocated the recommendation of the CRC to include the Right to Health in the Bill of Rights of the amended Constitution to ensure that Ghanaians, irrespective of their status, are guaranteed economic, social and cultural rights. To project its position, the NCS launched a campaign in Accra yesterday to mobilise public support to compel the government to reconsider its position by including the Bill of Rights in the category of Chapter 5 of the Constitution. Setting the tone for the campaign, the Executive Secretary of the NCS at the Department of Human Development, Mr Samuel Zan Akologo, said the surest way to place economic, social and cultural rights at the same level as civil and political rights was for the CRC to include the Right to Health in the Bill of Rights. Findings with respect to right to health of the final report of the CRC, that was issued in December 2011, included the fact that health facilities were in deplorable state, particularly outside the regional capitals, the crucial needs of health care revolved around funding and the urgent need for funds to be allocated to the sector. Based on that, the CRC recommended that Article 27 of Chapter 5 of the Constitution on “Right of the Sick” be titled “Right to Health” and should guarantee the right of every Ghanaian to the highest attainable standard of health. In that regard, the CRC recommended the inclusion of the Right to Health in the Bill of Rights in the Constitution. In spite of that, the Government White Paper prepared in response to the CRC report noted that “While Government accepts the recommendations of the CRC on the rights listed under Sub-Theme Nine, Government is of the opinion that those rights are best expressed under the Chapter dealing with the Direct Principles of State Policy.” It is on that basis that the NCS dissented, contending that including the Right to Health in the Bill of Rights would compel the government to respect that right, protect it and fulfill the obligation of that right. Mr Akologo indicated that the Ghana Catholic Bishop’s Conference had already engaged in high level dialogue meetings with the President and members of the CRC and expressed those intentions. “The National Catholic Secretariat, which is the implementing agency of the decisions of the Bishops’s Conference, is now taking this message further to engage with broader stakeholders,” he said. For him, the launch was therefore about building strategic partnerships and mobilising more broadly to prosecute the campaign. Mr Akologo urged like-minded organisations to join in articulating the message “loudly and strongly.” Mr Michael Xatse and Mrs Christiana Abavana, both legal practitioners, and the Director of Policy Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation of the Ministry of Health, Dr Afisah Zakariah, providing a review of the campaign paper, supported the action by the NCS. The Vice-President of the Ghana Catholic Bishops’ Conference and Bishop of the Kete-Krachi Diocese of the Catholic Church, the Most Rev Anthony Adanuty, formally launched the campaign.