Sexual and reproductive health

WHO and OHCHR launch landmark working group on health and human rights of women, children and adolescents

This week at the 69th World Health Assembly, WHO and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) announced the establishment of a high-level working group of global champions on health and human rights of women, children and adolescents.

Mother breastfeeds her baby in a refugee camp in Chad.
A woman and children in Dar Es Salam refugee camp in Chad. March 2016.
UNICEF/Esiebo

Bridging the technical – and mostly artificial – divide between public health delivery and human rights is of the utmost importance to effectively respond to the call made by the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to leave no one behind, to address discrimination and inequality, and to ensure healthy lives for all.

“This working group marks a seismic shift and will generate high-level political commitment for the health and human rights of women, children and adolescents everywhere – even in the toughest of places.”

Kate Gilmore, Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, OHCHR

The working group has a year-long mandate during which it aims to generate high-level political support, at both national and international levels, for the implementation of the human rights-related measures called for under the Global Strategy on Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health (2016-2030). The Global Strategy was launched by the UN Secretary-General and global leaders, including heads of state, alongside the SDGs in September. It is a roadmap for ending the preventable deaths of women, children and adolescents, and ensuring that they can reach their full potential and transform their own futures and those of their communities.

Dr Flavia Bustreo, Assistant Director General of WHO, hailed this as a momentous initiative, and stated, “this working group will change the way we do business, and will foster a new era in the promotion and protection of health and human rights of women, children and adolescents.”

The working group will be composed of seven global champions on health and human rights. The full list of working group members is expected to be available in June 2016. The contributions of a range of stakeholders will inform the report of the Working Group, which will be shared at the World Health Assembly and Human Rights Council 2017 sessions.