Human Rights Council side event on preventable maternal mortality
14 SEPTEMBER 2011 — The Permanent Missions of New Zealand, Burkina Faso and Colombia organized a high-level side event during the 18th session of the UN Human Rights Council, on "Applying the human rights-based approach to efforts to eliminate preventable maternal mortality and morbidity." The event was organized in support of the latest report of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on preventable maternal mortality and human rights, and was co-sponsored by a wide range of governments, civil society partners and UN agencies.
Panelists were introduced and moderated by Ms Wendy Hinton, Chargé d'Affaires at the Permanent Mission of New Zealand. Ms Navi Pillay, the UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights, delivered the opening statement, followed by interventions from His Excellency Mr Angelino Garzon, Vice-President of Colombia; Dr Flavia Bustreo, Assistant Director-General, Family, Women's and Children's Health, WHO; Ms Luisa Cabal, Center for Reproductive Rights; and the Permanent Mission of Burkina Faso’s Legal Counsel, Clarisse Ouoba.
Dr Bustreo spoke on behalf of WHO, UNICEF, UNFPA and the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (PMNCH). She provided an overview of the UN Secretary-General's Global Strategy for Women's and Children's Health, and the recently completed work of the Commission on Information and Accountability, including the set of recommendations adopted by the Commission. Dr Bustreo emphasized the need for systematic integration of a human rights-based approach in efforts to follow-up on the recommendations, including in strengthening national and global accountability mechanisms for women's and children's health.
“One of the key weaknesses for countries that still have high maternal morbidity and mortality is that the information system is very weak,” she said. “Here is where I think national human rights institutions ought to play a role in the strengthening of accountability, at the domestic level, as well parliaments, and civil society afterwards, have a very important role to play.”
Panel members shared country experiences in the application of universal human rights principles to address and reduce maternal mortality; and highlighted current opportunities for ensuring further integration of said principles in international initiatives aimed at achieving MDGs 4 and 5. All speakers reiterated the importance of ensuring that universal human rights principles are more systematically and pragmatically applied in global and national efforts to eliminate preventable maternal mortality.
In her intervention, PMNCH Director Dr Carole Presern underlined the Partnership's commitment to strengthen linkages between human rights, health and development efforts with a view to aligning action. Through the Partnership's constituencies, she suggested, PMNCH could help facilitate the organization of the proposed multi-stakeholder workshop to develop practical guidance on implementing the recommendations of the Human Rights Council as well as the Commission on Information and Accountability.
Both panelists and participants emphasized the urgent need to move from current, isolated good practices in the application of human rights principles to full-scale integration of the rights-based approach in all efforts aimed at eliminating preventable maternal mortality and morbidity. To enable this transition, a systematic approach, supported by evidence on the added value and efficacy of human rights principles, was needed for all actors, including governments, civil society, UN agencies and private sector actors.
The event concluded with a call for intensified dialogue on this matter, including through the organization of an expert meeting to develop practical guidance on the application of the rights-based approach in efforts to eliminate preventable maternal mortality.