Accountability for Women’s and Children’s Health

Oslo Consultation: Applying Human Rights to Women’s and Children’s Health

As the global health community increases efforts towards reaching the Millennium Development Goals and shape the priorities within the post-2015, Norad, Save the Children and its partners, World Vision, Unicef and WHO, have organized a consultation to help shape the practical next steps in achieving a rights based approach to health, in particular children’s right to health. The consultation took place on 5-6 December 2013 in Oslo, Sweden and was attended by knowledgeable participants drawn from communities, academia, civil society and multilateral organisations, aiming to develop quite practical and actionable approaches that can feed into other ongoing processes and dialogues.

Significant progress has been already made in further articulating the importance of human rights as a foundation for improving health. On 1 February 2013, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child adopted General Comment no. 15 on the right of the child to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health. In September 2012, the UN Human Rights Council adopted a Technical Guidance document on the application of a human rights-based approach to eliminate preventable maternal mortality and morbidity. A monograph documenting evidence of impact of human rights on women and children’s health was launched at the World Health Assembly in May 2013. Human rights have framed work to provide access to HIV related services, as well as sexual and reproductive health care.

The independent Expert Review Group (iERG) on Information and Accountability for Women’s and Children’s Health played a significant role in triggering action to protect women’s and children’s right to high-quality health services. The iERG 2012 Report called for strengthening human rights tools and frameworks to achieve better health and accountability for women and children.

Civil society, multilateral organisations and academia have worked alongside governments to translate the commitment to a rights-based approach to health demonstrated in global level processes, to practical action at the community level. Communities themselves have participated in changing the way health services are designed to better fulfil community members’ right to health.

The Oslo Consultation provided a forum for a broader discussion and sharing of experiences of impact of implementation of a rights based approach to health service delivery. The iERG Chair, Ms Joy Phumaphi, represented the iERG and addressed the participants with an inspiring opening speech. She called “both the RMNCH and the human rights communities to advocate for and win an independent accountability mechanism to monitor, review, and continuously improve actions towards delivering the post-2015 sustainable development agenda with a focus on the right to health” as well as to “prioritize quality to reinforce the value of a human-rights-based approach to women’s and children’s health”.

“We seek a new normal, where the right of every woman and every child to health is prioritized by all”, stressed the iERG Chair in her concluding remarks.