UN Human Rights Guidance aims to reduce preventable maternal morbidity and mortality

10 SEPTEMBER 2012 | GENEVA

The Guidance

Human Rights Council side session launches MNCH Guidance
Human Rights Council side session launches MNCH Guidance

The 21st Session of the United Nations’ Human Rights Council has received a report which aims to help policymakers in improving women’s health and rights by providing guidance on implementing policies and programmes to reduce maternal mortality and morbidity in accordance with human rights standards.

The Guidance was launched at a high-level side seminar on Friday 14 September. The UN High Commissioner opened the seminar by introducing the technical guidance in response to Human Rights Council resolution 18/2. She spoke about the collaborative process of developing this guidance, including consultation with a variety of stakeholders such as UN agencies, academia, civil society and the public in various countries. Link on the right to more details on the seminar.

The technical guidance includes general principles, stressing for example empowerment of women and girls and the participation of affected populations, including marginalized groups. It provides guidance on budgeting and planning, including adopting a national health plan as a core obligation of the right to health, and underlines implementation in practice, presenting examples of identified problems in the areas of emergency obstetric care, and needs of adolescent girls. It underscores the need for accountability and provides detailed guidance on monitoring, forms of review and oversight, and remedies. Finally, it emphasizes the role of international assistance and cooperation.

Below find an key paragraphs from the Technical Guidance: “Technical guidance on the application of a human rights-based approach to the implementation of policies and programmes to reduce preventable maternal morbidity and mortality”

Summary

“The present report contains concise technical guidance, in accordance with the request made by the Human Rights Council in its resolution 18/2. The aim of the report is to assist policymakers in improving women’s health and rights by providing guidance on implementing policies and programmes to reduce maternal mortality and morbidity in accordance with human rights standards. It highlights the human rights implications for multiple actors in the policymaking, implementation and review cycle, as well as the need for robust enforcement mechanisms and international assistance and cooperation.

Introduction

“1. In its resolution 18/2, the Human Rights Council requested the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), in cooperation with concerned United Nations agencies and other experts, to prepare concise technical guidance on the application of a human rights-based approach to the implementation of policies and programmes to reduce preventable maternal mortality and morbidity, and to present it to the Council at its twenty-first session.

2. In 2011, OHCHR circulated a note verbale to all States and international organizations requesting information on existing technical guidance pertaining to human rights and maternal mortality and morbidity. In addition to desk-based research, the present report was informed by responses to the note verbale, close cooperation with United Nations agencies, academics and civil society organizations working in the area of maternal mortality and morbidity, an expert group consultation and a public consultation.

3. Maternal mortality and morbidity continue to exact a terrible toll on women, and especially impoverished women, in many countries worldwide. Some 287,000 women died of maternal causes in 2010, and between 10 and 15 million more suffer debilitating complications annually, severely affecting their well-being. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that from 88 to 98 per cent of maternal deaths are preventable.

“4 Millennium Development Goal 5 calls for a 75 per cent reduction in maternal mortality ratios from 1990 levels and universal access to reproductive health by 2015, the latter being the target that is most off-track. At the High-level Plenary Meeting of the General Assembly on the Millennium Development Goals in 2010, the Secretary-General launched the Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health to accelerate progress. As a result of the Global Strategy, an information and accountability commission was established, which issued a report recognizing the centrality of human rights to achieving progress, and made 10 recommendations, the implementation of which can support the guidance contained in the present report.

“5. The primary purpose of the present report is to assist policymakers in improving women’s health and rights by providing guidance on devising, implementing and monitoring policies and programmes to reduce maternal mortality and morbidity, and fostering accountability in accordance with human rights standards.

“6. Although primarily aimed at health decision-makers, the guidance is also relevant to other sectors, including finance and education, as well as parliamentarians, judiciaries, inter-governmental agencies, national human rights institutions and donor States. The engagement of civil society is necessary for the effective implementation of the guidelines, and to hold Governments to account.

“7. The High Commissioner encourages the implementation of the present technical guidance. The Human Rights Council could consider encouraging the dissemination of the guidance to all relevant parts of Government as well as other stakeholders and promoting its use in programmes and policies to eliminate maternal mortality and morbidity. The Council could also encourage inter-agency dialogue and collaboration within the United Nations systems on the implementation of the guidance through their own policies, programmes and technical support.”

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