UN Human Rights Guidance aims to reduce preventable maternal morbidity and mortality
10 SEPTEMBER 2012 | GENEVA
High-level launch event
Launch of the Technical Guidance on a Human Rights-based Approach to reduce maternal mortality and morbidity
14 September 2012, 13:00 to 15:00, Palais des Nations, Room XII
- Ms Navanethem Pillay, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
- Dr Babatunde Osotimehin, Executive Director, United Nations Population Fund
- Dr Flavia Bustreo, Assistant Director General, Family, Women's and Children's Health, World Health Organization
- H.E. Ambassador Prosper Vokouma, Permanent Representative of Burkina Faso (TBC)
- Professor Alicia Yamin, Director, Program on the Health Rights of Women and Children, François-Xavier Bagnoud Center for Health and Human Rights, Havard University
- Ms Jashodhara Dasgupta, SAHAYOG, India
The UN High Commissioner opened the seminar by introducing the technical guidance in response to Human Rights Council resolution 18/2.
Ambassador Prosper Vokouma, Permanent Representative of Burkina Faso – Welcomed the event and spoke about the centrality of this issue globally and in Burkina Faso. He described Burkina Faso's efforts in collaboration with Colombia and New Zealand on the draft resolution being prepared on this topic (and specifically endorsing the technical guidance) for the current session of the Human Rights Council. The Ambassador highlighted the importance of international cooperation when addressing maternal mortality.
Dr Babatunde Osotimehin, Executive Director, United Nations Population Fund – Welcomed the launch of the technical guidance, which successfully frames maternal mortality and morbidity as a human rights issue. He stressed the need for political will and called for the implementation of the technical guidance. He applauded the focus on accountability and spoke about the need for stronger health systems applying a rights-based approach as well as for collaboration between the health and other sector including other ministries, parliamentarians, civil society etc. He outlined some of UNFPA’s efforts in this field, such as promoting empowerment and addressing the need of marginalized groups as well as tackling legal and practical barriers to tackling maternal mortality and morbidity. Finally, he concluded by stressing UNFPA’s readiness to support UN member states in collaboration with OHCHR, WHO and other partners in the implementation of the technical guidance.
Dr Flavia Bustreo, Assistant Director General, Family, Women’s and Children’s Health, World Health Organization – Applauded the work of the Human Rights Council and great timing, highlighting the positive process leading up to the launch, in collaboration with UN Agencies and PMNCH among others, with the input from many partners, as invaluable for the development of the guidance. Dr. Bustreo emphasized two particularly positive aspects of the technical guidance, i.e. (1) focus on planning and budgeting, and (2) specific examples on the issue of adolescent maternal mortality and morbidity. She supported the attention to accountability, mirroring recommendations of the Commission on Information and Accountability for Women’s and Children’s Health and related Country accountability frameworks, and spoke about the importance of better monitoring and data, including civil registration and maternal death surveillance and response, recalling the recently adopted HRC resolution on vital statistics. She highlighted a holistic approach, taking into account challenges beyond health systems and the social determinants of health. She concluded with affirming WHO’s readiness to collaborate, including supporting the dissemination of the guidance and practical implementation in countries, and encouraged and supported the Council and OHCHR to continue pursuing similar processes for child health
Professor Alicia Yamin, Director, Program on the Health Rights of Women and Children, François-Xavier Bagnoud Center for Health and Human Rights, Harvard University – Highlighted the progress achieved over the last 20 years on integrating a human rights based approach to maternal mortality and morbidity. She remarked on the critical link between respect for a broad range of human rights and maternal mortality and morbidity, framing it as the result of man-made decisions and policies. She also provided examples of countries where human rights are already informing government approaches (such as, Nepal, Mexico, Sierra Leone, Kenya, and Peru), and expressed the hope that the launch of the guidance would inspire more countries to apply a HRBA.
Ms Jashodhara Dasgupta, SAHAYOG, India – Provided a response from the perspective of civil society, supporting the launch and implementation of the guidance. She mentioned India as an example of a country where, despite much progress in recent years, many challenges still remained. Ms. Dasgupta highlighted, like many other speakers, the need for empowerment and participation. She spoke about going beyond the availability of health services to promote human rights-based forms of accountability and monitoring, including access to remedy and redress, especially for marginalized communities. Finally, she called on donors, including non-state actors, to ensure that their support is in line with the HRBA described by the technical guidance.
The UN High Commissioner closed the meeting, thanking all panelists and participants and welcoming the idea of further elaboration of the guidance and collaboration with partners.