Intended for healthcare professionals

Analysis Women’s, Children’s, and Adolescents’ Health

Human rights in the new Global Strategy

BMJ 2015; 351 doi: (Published 14 September 2015) Cite this as: BMJ 2015;351:h4184

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  1. Jyoti Sanghera, chief1,
  2. Lynn Gentile, human rights officer1,
  3. Imma Guerras-Delgado, child rights adviser1,
  4. Lucinda O’Hanlon, women’s rights adviser2,
  5. Alfonso Barragues, technical adviser on human rights3,
  6. Rachel Louise Hinton, technical officer4,
  7. Rajat Khosla, human rights adviser5,
  8. Kumanan Rasanathan, senior health specialist6,
  9. Marcus Stahlhofer, adviser, child and adolescent rights7
  10. on behalf of the Human Rights Subwork Stream of the Global Strategy on Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health
  1. 1Human Rights and Economic and Social Issues Section, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, United Nations, Geneva, Switzerland
  2. 2Women’s Rights and Gender Section, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, United Nations
  3. 3United Nations Population Fund, New York, USA
  4. 4Partnership for Maternal Newborn and Child Health, World Health Organization, Geneva, Switzerland
  5. 5Department of Reproductive Health and Research, World Health Organization
  6. 6United Nations Children’s Fund, New York, USA
  7. 7Department of Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health Cluster for Family, Women’s and Children’s Health, World Health Organization
  1. Correspondence to: J Sanghera jsanghera{at}

By recognising the centrality of human rights, the revised Global Strategy encourages some bold shifts in improving the health and wellbeing of women, children, and adolescents, say Jyoti Sanghera and colleagues

The Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health (2010), with its emphasis on participatory decision making processes, non-discrimination, and accountability, affirmed the importance of human rights. Despite important gains following its launch women, children, and adolescents continue to experience serious violations of their health and health related human rights, including discrimination in access to quality healthcare. A human rights based approach must thus be fully integrated throughout the Global Strategy.

The right to health is recognised by several legal tools and treaties relating to human rights, including the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; the Convention on the Rights of the Child; and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. A human rights framework for realising the right to health of women, children, and adolescents calls for national governments to ensure that health facilities, goods, and services are of good quality, are available in sufficient quantity, and are physically accessible and affordable on the basis of non-discrimination.1 Health facilities, goods, and services must also be acceptable—that is, gender and child sensitive and respectful of confidentiality and the requirement for informed consent, among other things.

A human rights based approach is based on accountability and on empowering women, children, and adolescents to claim their rights and participate in decision making, and it covers the interrelated determinants of health and wellbeing (box). Because a human rights based approach promotes holistic responses, rather than fragmented strategies, and requires attention to the health needs of marginalised and vulnerable populations, it is a valuable tool for improving health outcomes.

Human rights add value

To meet their obligation to respect, fulfil, …

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