UN adopts resolution on preventable maternal mortality

  • Date / 18 June 2009

The UN Human Rights Council has adopted the attached resolution on Preventable Maternal Mortality. The text of the speech given by Anthony Grayling on behalf of IHEU in support of this resolution is also attached.

International Humanist and Ethical Union

UN HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL: 11th Session (2 – 19 June 2009)
Speaker: IHEU Representative, Anthony Grayling: Tuesday 16 June 2009
Item 8: Integrating the Human Rights of Women throughout the UN System

Preventable maternal mortality

Thank you, Mr President

We would like to draw the attention of the Council to the key contribution made by women’s reproductive health to the full enjoyment of their human rights and to the health and well-being of their families and their entire communities.

The importance of sexual and reproductive health is recognised in MDG 5 where the target is to reduce maternal mortality by 75% between 1990 and 2015, and to provide universal access to reproductive health. [1]

The essential requirement to bring this about is for women to have control of their own fertility – and this requires information and access to affordable and effective methods of family planning.

But, Mr President, it also requires the support and understanding of men. Central therefore to the improvement of women’s health and rights is the education and understanding of their menfolk:

  • for men to develop respect for women and girls;
  • for men to understand (paraphrasing President Obama) that the number of children they can nurture and support, not merely the number of children they can father, is the measure of their manhood;
  • and to recognise that a healthy and happy family requires a healthy and happy mother.

Of all the Millennium Development Goals, it is MDG 5 that appears to be furthest from achievement; almost no progress has been made in the past 10 years towards this goal. The time has surely come for the international community to give far greater attention to the 1,500 maternal deaths that occur every day.

We therefore welcome the initiative of the delegation of New Zealand to introduce a resolution examining the human rights aspects of maternal mortality. We believe that wider recognition that this is indeed a human rights issue will provide additional momentum to efforts to reduce this appalling death toll.

We urge all members of the Council to support the resolution.

Thank you, Sir.

[1] http://www.un.org/millenniumgoals/2008highlevel/pdf/newsroom/Goal%205%20FINAL.pdf

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