Health and Human Rights


Human Rights and Gender Equality in Health Strategies

There have been multiple international and regional commitments to human rights and gender equality, but these have yet to be incorporated into many national health strategies. Practical ways to uphold these commitments are often absent, leaving women, men and children in vulnerable groups at increased risk for negative health outcomes. WHO and Sida are collaborating on the development of a tool to assess the integration of human rights and gender equality in the design of health sector strategies. The tool is targeted for use by various actors involved in health planning and development and implementation or monitoring of health sector strategies. The tool has been field tested in Uganda and Zambia and has benefited from a peer review by various health, human rights and gender equality experts and staff in various programme areas, regional and country offices.

"Human Rights, Health and Poverty Reduction Strategies" Publication

This draft publication is intended to provide a tool for health policy-makers to design, implement and monitor a poverty reduction strategy through a human rights-based approach. This publication is currently being finalized.

Consultations related to this tool:

WHO and a German co-operation organized a Regional Workshop on Human Rights, Health and Poverty Reduction Strategies (PRSs) from 27-29 June, 2006 in Nairobi, Kenya. Forty participants from ministries of health, WHO (AFRO and five WHO country offices were represented, four of whom were heads of office), four national human rights commissions, civil society groups and the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. A full copy of the agenda and presentations can be found at the web portal set up for the meeting.

A Web Conference on Human Rights, Health and Poverty Reduction Strategies was held from 9-11 January, 2006, involving relevant stakeholders, including Ministries of Health and WHO staff, donor agencies supporting health and civil society organizations. The "virtual" conference gathered feedback on a draft booklet recently published entitled "Human Rights, Health and Poverty Reduction. This booklet is intended to guide health policy makers in enhancing the effectiveness of a poverty reduction strategy through a human rights- based approach. It will be finalized during 2006 based on feedback gathered at a series of consultations (virtual and face-to-face) supported by InWEnt - Capacity Building International, Germany and the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ) GmbH.

Health and Human Rights Indicators

The UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) issued General Comment 14 on the right to the highest attainable standard of health in 2000. The General Comment noted that “National health strategies should identify appropriate right to health indicators and benchmarks. The indicators should be designed to monitor, at the national and international levels, the State party’s obligations under article 12". It identified WHO as one of the UN agencies to guide States in this process.

In this context, WHO convened a workshop on May 15, 2003, to advance the process to identify relevant indicators as described by General Comment 14. The importance of bringing multi-disciplinary actors in health and human rights together and of seeking common ground on how to monitor the right to health was emphasized, and both public health experts and human rights practitioners were invited. Below is the workshop meeting report which includes a background note by the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health, Mr. Paul Hunt.

WHO convened a follow-up meeting in April 2004 which aimed to continue discussion of those issues raised at the May 2003 in light of information and experience gained during the past year. The document provides an overview of the presentations and discussions on the issue of right to health indicators from that workshop. It explains the origins and aims of the concept of right to health indicators; describes the framework proposed by the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to health on right to health indicators; contains summaries of a number of presentations relating to ongoing work relevant to right to health indicators; and lists ways forward and activities to be completed before the next meeting, planned for June 2005.