Health and Human Rights


#rights365 campaign says Human Rights Day is every day

Read Dr Bustreo’s statement and learn about the #rights365 campaign

10 DECEMBER 2014 / GENEVA – This year’s #rights365 campaign focuses on the message that human rights are for everyday---not only for the one day set aside by the international community to mark the commitment made in 1948 to respect and protect fundamental freedoms laid out in the ‘Universal Declaration of Human Rights’. “Human Rights Day - for all that we have achieved – is a heartbreaking reminder of the tough reality faced by too many women, adolescents and children around the world every day,” said Dr Flavia Bustreo, Assistant Director-General for WHO’s Women’s and Children’s Health Cluster.

Celebrating 25 years of the Convention on the Rights of the Child

Convention on the Rights of the Child

20 NOVEMBER 2014 | GENEVA, SWITZERLAND - On 20 November 1989, the United Nations (UN) General Assembly adopted a landmark –the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The Convention recognises that children are human beings and more than just ‘passive objects of care and charity’ who are entitled to the enjoyment of a distinct set of rights in accordance with their specific needs. The Convention on the Rights of the Child is the most widely and rapidly adopted international treaty of all time, with more than 190 member states having ratified it.

Launch of the Technical Guidance on the application of a human rights

Dr Flavia Bustreo, ADG

September 18, Geneva – The Technical Guidance on the application of a human rights based approach to reduce and eliminate preventable mortality and morbidity of children under 5 years of age was launched at a high-level side event to the Human Rights Council.

Gender, Equity and Human Rights at the core of the health response

1 May 2012 - As part of the current reform process, the World Health Organization has launched a new approach to promote and facilitate the institutional mainstreaming of gender, equity and human rights, building upon the progress that has already been made on these areas at all three levels of the Organization. In the words of the Director-General Dr Margaret Chan, the goal is “to achieve a WHO in which each staff member has the core value of gender, equity and human right in his/her DNA.” The coherent approach to mainstream all three areas will be reflected in the way WHO works and what it delivers – through technical cooperation, policy advice and dialogue, setting norms and standards, knowledge generation and sharing, convening stakeholders, and other enabling functions. Particular efforts are geared towards enhancing WHO Country Office capacity to support countries in incorporating gender, equity and human rights within their national strategic health plans, other policies and activities on the ground, and monitoring efforts. The mainstreaming process is carried out jointly by all the clusters in WHO HQ, Regional and Country Offices, and will be rolled out in a spirit of joint accountability. To facilitate this, a new Gender, Equity and Human Rights (GER) team has been created, bringing together previous teams on gender, equity and human rights. Please note that this website is currently being restructured to reflect these changes. The links related to work of the previous teams remain live as an archive of past achievements.

Adoption of resolution advocating universal birth registration

Nineteenth session of the UN Human Rights Council

On 6 March, 2012 WHO addressed the UN Human Rights Council at its nineteenth session in Geneva, and issued a statement on the Right to Food.

On 28 February, 2012 WHO addressed the UN Human Rights Council at its nineteenth session in Geneva, and issued a statement at the panel discussion on Human Rights Mainstreaming.

WHO Newsletter on Health and Human Rights

For International Human Rights Day, December 10, WHO published its annual newsletter on health and human rights.

Eighteenth session of the UN Human Rights Council

On 16 September, 2011 WHO addressed the UN Human Rights Council at its eighteenth session in Geneva, and issued a statement at the panel discussion on the "Realization of the Right to Health of Older Persons".

Launch of Report "Discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity in Europe

On 23 June, 2011, WHO participated in the launch of the report "Discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation and gender in Europe", Strasbourg.

New tool on "Human Rights and Gender Equality in Health Sector Strategies : How to Assess Policy Coherence"

This tool, developed in collaboration between WHO, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) is designed to support countries to strengthen national health strategies by applying human rights and gender equality commitments and obligations. The tool poses critical questions to identify gaps and opportunities in the review or reform of health sector strategies.

International Day Against Homophobia

17 May — the date when many human rights activists, national governments and local authorities mark the International Day Against Homophobia. WHO was pleased to contribute to the publication of a pamphlet 'The United Nations Speaks Out: Tackling Discrimination on Grounds of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity', together with the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the UN Development Programme (UNDP), and UNAIDS.

Paper on the Right to Health in the Constitutions of Member States of the WHO South-East Asia Region (SEAR)

The South-East Asia Regional Office (SEARO) has published a compilation of the constitutional provisions relevant to "the right to health" of the 11 Member States in the SEAR.

Access to Essential Medicines as part of the Right to Health

New website devoted to core materials on access to essential medicines as part of human rights presents links to the most relevant global texts and WHO articles and documents in this area. It also presents, for the first time, raw data from WHO-sponsored research, such as the full references and summary data of the 71 court cases from the Lancet article, and the database of right to health articles in 189 constitutions of the world. Other links refer to all medicine-related reports by the previous UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health, Paul Hunt; and to other relevant web sites.

New information sheet on "A Human Rights-Based Approach to Health"

The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the WHO have issued an information sheet on a Human Rights-Based Approach to Health (HRBA).


To commemorate International Human Rights Day, 10 December, 2006, WHO released a video to raise awareness about the right to health. Three students explore together the key components of the right to health by reviewing international legal instruments and discussing how these apply in practice - in the everyday lives of people around the world.

E-learning course on Health & Human Rights

The WHO Health and Human Rights team and InWEnt Capacity Building International, Germany, launched an e-learning course on health and human rights in 2006. This online training intends to generate increased clarity and understanding about the important synergy between health and human rights. It is developed with a broad target audience in mind comprising public health and human rights practitioners, WHO staff and other UN agencies, government officials, NGOs, students etc. The course follows an e-learning approach with 3 modules which are to be completed consecutively. The learning objectives of this course are to build the capacity of participants to:

  • Recognize the key linkages between health and human rights
  • Familiarize themselves with the legal framework for international human rights
  • Be able to analyze and assess public health policies and programs from a human rights perspective
  • Apply a human rights-based approach to their own work

For further information, please contact


Gender, Equity and Human Rights