Agreement signed between WHO and UN Human Rights Agency to advance work on health and human rights

21 November 2017 – GENEVA - Today marked a significant milestone for health and human rights as WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad al Hussein signed an agreement to deepen collaboration between their agencies. The agreement – formally called a Framework for Cooperation – responds to the recommendations of the High Level Working Group for the Health and Human Rights of Women, Children and Adolescents.

WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad al Hussein signed an agreement to deepen collaboration between their agencies © OHCHRThe Working Group on the Health and Human Rights of Women, Children and Adolescents, co-chaired by H.E. Tarja Halonen, former President of Finland and Ms. Hina Jilani of the Elders, was established by WHO and OHCHR in to identify practical recommendations to better operationalize human rights to achieve the targets in the Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health (2016-2030).

The Working Group launched its seminal report at the World Health Assembly in May and the Human Rights Council in June of this year – the first report of its kind to be formally considered by both bodies.  The report makes the case that health and human rights are intrinsically linked – that health cannot be improved if rights are not upheld, and rights cannot be realized without the pre-condition of good health. The report makes an emphatic call for strong political will and leadership at the highest levels to realize human rights to health and through health.

 “This is a landmark moment,” said High Commissioner Zeid at the signing. “It is also a testament to the strong working relationship that already exists between WHO and OHCHR, and has great potential to move this important work ahead where it matters most – in countries.”

The WHO-OHCHR Framework of Cooperation spells out several ways in which the two agencies will strengthen their collaboration, including building capacity at country level to implement rights-based approaches, and strengthening the way in which health issues are considered by existing human rights mechanisms. The initial term of the Framework of Cooperation is four years, and both agencies will review progress annually. 

At the signing, WHO Director-General Dr Tedros noted that, “a human rights-based approach to health is essential to achieving my top priority as DG – universal health coverage. No one should get sick and die just because they are poor, or because they cannot access the health services they need.”  

“This Framework of Cooperation – a first for WHO and OHCHR – is a bold step towards strengthening our cooperation, and advancing the right to health for all people. I look forward to the fruit that it will bear” said Dr Tedros.