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After U.N. Summit, Human Rights Council Reaffirms Commitment to Human Rights Approach to Tackling Maternal Deaths

From the Center for Reproductive Rights and the Sexual Rights Initiative

(PRESS RELEASE) Yesterday, the United Nations Human Rights Council adopted a second groundbreaking resolution reaffirming that pregnancy-related deaths and injuries are a human rights issue and calling on U.N. member states to redouble their efforts and integrate human rights in their policies and programs to eliminate preventable maternal mortality and morbidity. 

“Today, the Council took a very important step forward in addressing the human rights dimensions of this global health emergency and public health crisis,” said Ximena Andion, international advocacy director at the Center for Reproductive Rights. “This resolution is a reminder to states that money alone will not fix the problem. Eliminating preventable maternal deaths and disability also means eliminating the underlying causes and guaranteeing the full range of women’s human rights.”

“The resolution is clear in saying that women’s empowerment, gender equality and women’s full enjoyment of their human rights are development goals but also a means for achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDG)”, said Neha Sood from the Sexual Rights Initiative..

The Human Rights Council’s move comes a little over a week after U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced that $40 billion had been pledged to invest in maternal health globally in the context of the MDGs Summit. The Human Rights Council resolution welcomes the MDG Summit outcome document.

Going further than this, however, the Council also called upon Governments to collect disaggregated data and to adopt national-level targets and indicators reflecting the main underlying causes of maternal mortality and morbidity as part of their efforts to ensure “effective monitoring of policies and programmes.”

The resolution welcomes a study, conducted by the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), on maternal mortality, morbidity and human rights that was published earlier this year, and reflects some of the study's conclusions and recommendations. The study clearly establishes that governments have human rights obligations to prevent and redress maternal deaths and disabilities through effective programming, strategies and policies that integrate the principles of accountability, non-discrimination and equality, monitoring and transparency, participation, empowerment and international cooperation.

“It is critical that the Council uses this resolution to ensure that all stakeholders implement the findings and recommendations of the OHCHR study, said Sandeep Prasad of the Sexual Rights Initiative. “We hope that States will take this commitment seriously.”

In the resolution, the Council also requests that OHCHR prepare an analytical report on best practices for incorporating a human rights-based approach to programs for eliminating preventable maternal deaths and disabilities.  Burkina Faso, Colombia and New Zealand spearheaded the negotiations and tabled the resolution, which enjoyed the support of 95 countries.

The Sexual Rights Initiative and the Center for Reproductive Rights have been at the fore-front of the advocacy efforts to gain recognition of maternal mortality as a human rights issue at the Human Rights Council.