Strengthening human rights linkages and accountability for women’s and children’s health

18 November 2013 | LILONGWE, MALAWI

More than 40 participants from government, human rights institutions, civil society institutions and UN country teams from Malawi, Uganda, Tanzania and South Africa came together for a workshop to strengthen the integration of human rights in policies and programmes for maternal, newborn and children health (MNCH), and related sexual and reproductive health issues.

The workshop was organized by OHCHR, PMNCH, WHO and UNFPA as part of a joint strategy to strengthen linkages between human rights bodies, the independent Expert Review Group (iERG) and Commission on Information and Accountability (CoIA) to promote accountability for women’s and children’s health. It provided a unique opportunity for participants from different sectors to work together on these issues for the first time.

One participant reflected that the multistakeholder focus of the workshop “offers an approach for all of us to genuinely review what we have done to implement a rights based approach to women’s and children’s health, see where the gaps and challenges are and to understand the barriers to change as well as the solutions”.

The aim of the workshop was to build the capacity of participants to:

  • Assess the legal and policy environment in order to integrate human rights into laws, policies and programmes related to maternal, newborn and child health, including related sexual and reproductive health issues; and
  • Understand the implications for States in the areas of planning, budgeting, implementation, monitoring, review and remedies.

The workshop included:

  • Training on the application of human rights based approaches to maternal, newborn and child health, including related sexual and reproductive health issues;
  • Practical application of tools through exercises designed to demonstrate the process of applying rights based approaches;
  • Technical presentations related to rights based approaches to MNCH, including related sexual and reproductive health issues;
  • Group work, role playing and discussions for participants to consider their national human rights and MNCH contexts and the opportunities for the application of rights based approaches to MNCH, including related sexual and reproductive health issues;
  • Discussion of key informational resources and tools including OHCHR’s technical guidance on a rights based approach to maternal mortality and morbidity, General Comment 15 on child health from the Committee on the Rights of the Child, and PMNCH Multistakeholder dialogue tool; and
  • Identification of upcoming strategic opportunities for participants to work together in their respective countries to further the integration of a human rights-based approach to MNCH.

The workshop will be followed by a human rights and MNCH, and related sexual and reproductive health assessment in each of the four countries. The assessment will inform national multistakeholder initiatives to align collective action, advocacy and mobilise resources for strengthening the application of rights based approaches to RMNCH. The assessment and related products can also be used to support country’s reporting processes to the iERG and to human rights bodies.

Background

Global initiatives such as UN Secretary General’s Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health, the related CoIA, and the Countdown to 2015 help monitor progress towards achieving MDGs 4 and 5, and promote accountability for resources and results. The Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health which was launched in 2010 at the Millennium Summit also clearly frames maternal and child mortality as human rights concerns. The first reports of the iERG, which monitors progress in implementing the Global Strategy, have identified respect for human rights as central to progress on maternal and child health. OHCHR has presented a series of reports on maternal mortality to the Human Rights Council, the most recent of which is the technical guidance on the application of a rights based approach to policies and programmes for the reduction of maternal mortality and morbidity.

Building the capacity of stakeholders engaged in health and human rights to better understand how to apply rights-based approaches is as important as bringing stakeholders, who come from different constituencies, together to foster collaboration. This approach promotes opportunities to strengthen both regional and in-country multistakeholder dialogue, joint action and accountability for resources and results.

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