Exploring African Environmental Ethics and Ubuntu at the 13th Ethics, Human Rights & Medical Law Conference

Climate change, environmental ethics, and public sector strikes in Africa take centre stage at the 13th Ethics, Human Rights & Medical Law Conference. This year’s theme highlights the intricate relationship between African environmental conservation, indigenous knowledge, and an ethical framework based on Ubuntu, as experts gather to shape Africa’s healthcare systems of tomorrow.

African environmental ethics is a rich and multifaceted field that transcends mere ideas, touching the core of existence and African ontology. Ubuntu, a philosophy emphasising family, community values and human interconnectedness, will form a key starting point for these discussions. This concept promotes ethical decision-making in environmental challenges, contributing to sustainable solutions and resonates with a holistic approach to climate change.

Chaired by Prof. Sylvester C. Chima, Associate Professor and Head of Programme of Bio & Research Ethics and Medical Law at UKZN, the conference promises to be an enlightening experience. Notable speakers include Professor Kevin Behrens, Head of Department and Director at WITS University’s Steve Biko Centre for Bioethics, as well as Professor Workineh Kelbessa and Dr. Munamato Chemhuru. These scholars will provide valuable insights into the tenets and history of African environmentalism, ethical perspectives on climate change, and where these intersect with the social science of healthcare systems research.

The conference will also delve into environmental justice from an African perspective, with a particular focus on the most vulnerable and socioeconomically marginalised populations in the Global South. These communities, being the hardest hit by the impacts of climate change, face overburdened healthcare systems further strained by environmental catastrophe.

The discussions will include strategies to ensure that those most disadvantaged by climate change become the primary beneficiaries of new innovations and responsible practices. The aim is to bring relief to their healthcare systems and promote sustainable solutions that consider both ethical imperatives and the unique challenges posed by climate change in the region.

In addition to environmental ethics, the conference will see leading these trailblazing thinkers engage in top-level dialogues on the issues surrounding healthcare worker and public sector strikes in Africa. Recognising the vital role that healthcare workers (HCWs) play in supporting public health, the conference will explore ways to better support them with improved working conditions, fair compensation, mental health support, and efficient supply chains.

The session on this topic will examine the systemic issues driving strike actions and aims to facilitate a productive dialogue for ethically and effectively resolving such labour disputes. Examining the underlying challenges faced by HCWs, the Conference will explore ways to create a more supportive environment that enables them to deliver the best quality healthcare, thereby strengthening the healthcare system’s ability to serve the public.

The 13th Ethics, Human Rights & Medical Law Conference invites GPs, specialists, allied healthcare professionals, psychologists, hospital management, sustainability directors, and academia to attend and gain insights to help us shape sustainable healthcare systems for Africa over the coming years.

“Future resilience in healthcare requires a multidisciplinary understanding of ethics, legal aspects, and environmental considerations. By embracing African environmental ethics and Ubuntu, we can foster sustainable solutions and empower healthcare professionals across the continent,” says Professor Chima.

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