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Landmark high-level working group puts health of women, children and adolescents at heart of human rights and development agenda – President Halonen to Co-Chair the Group


New York – A landmark high-level working group launched today aims to put the health of women, children and adolescents at the heart of the global human rights and development agenda. By looking for the most innovative ways to translate human rights into a reality, the Working Group for the Health and Human Rights of Women, Children and Adolescents responds to the global call of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to ‘leave no one behind’.


The working group is co-chaired by former President of Finland, Tarja Halonen, as well as a leading human rights expert, Hina Jilani from Pakistan, who is a member of The Elders, an organization of former statespersons founded by Nelson Mandela dedicated to promote peace and development. The working group is co-hosted by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), who will establish a joint secretariat.

Last year, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, together with global leaders and heads of state, launched the Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health (2016-2030). The strategy not only looks to ensure the survival of women, children and adolescents, but also to ensure that they can thrive and play a transformative role in the development of their communities and societies.

The strategy emphasizes the need for a human rights based approach, but recent studies show that while many countries have agreed to human rights treaties, their implementation remains patchy. More work is needed to clearly identify how we can better use existing human rights mechanisms for women, children and adolescents, and translate the right to health – as well as other rights like food, water, and legal identity – into concrete improvements for those living in poverty and the most difficult circumstances.

“This working group is truly novel, and it is an honour to co-lead it,” said President Halonen. “Mere lip service to human rights is not acceptable. We need clearer thinking about what it takes to make human rights a reality for those who are overlooked or marginalized – to ensure that they can lead dignified, healthy and productive lives.”

The group will work for one year 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. This includes guidance on how human rights can be integrated into health programming, and how we can better measure the impact of human rights on health outcomes.

“We need to demystify human rights,” said co-chair Hina Jilani. “It is about taking concrete steps so that a woman in the mountains of Pakistan can deliver her baby with high quality care. It means that the poorest child in a city slum in Nairobi is being reached with life-saving vaccines. It means that a teenage girl in Bolivia is involved in the design of health services that are relevant and acceptable to her. Together we aim to put first those who have previously come last. Health is not a luxury – it is a human right.”

The working group will issue its recommendations at the World Health Assembly and Human Rights Council in the spring of 2017.


Members of the Working Group on the Health and Human Rights of Women, Children and Adolescents (additional members may join)

Tarja Halonen, former President, Finland (co-chair)

Hina Jilani, member of The Elders, Pakistan (co-chair)

Denis Mukwege, Gynecologist, DRC (rapporteur)

Aminata Toure, Former Prime Minister, Senegal

Marie-Claude Bibeau, Minister for International Development and la Francophonie, Canada

Rosy Akbar, Minister for Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation, Fiji

Dr. Cristina Lustemberg, Vice-Minister of Health, Uruguay

Natasha Despoja, Gender Ambassador, Australia

Richard Horton, Editor of the Lancet, UK


For more information, contact Rajat Khosla khoslar@who.int.