April 11, 2011

Public Dialogue on the Report of the Mission to India of UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health, 13 August, 2010, New Delhi

The public dialogue, organized by the NAMHHR, was held on 13th August 2010 in New Delhi. This dialogue was an attempt to highlight the fact that India needs far more rigorous mechanisms for accountability regarding the unacceptably high rates of preventable maternal deaths still occurring in this country; especially since India is capable of simultaneously providing global class health care.

The current UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health, Mr Anand Grover, graced the event and spoke on the issue of International Accountability with regard to the right to maternal health. Professor Gita Sen, IIM Bangalore and Brinda Karat, Honourable Member of Parliamentary Standing Committee, distinguished speakers at the event, added to the discussion with their important recommendations and support. Eminent chairs for the various sessions included Dr. Syeda Hameed (Honourable member of the Planning Commission); Mr P.C. Sharma (National Human Rights Commission); Mr. A. R. Nanda (Population Foundation of India); Ms Poonam Muttreja (MacArthur Foundation). Distinguished persons like Renu Khanna, (Commonhealth); Professor Dileep Mavalankar (IIM Ahmedabad); Dr. Abhay Shukla (SATHI-CEHAT); Dr. Nirmala Nair (EKJUT); Jashodhara Dasgupta (SAHAYOG); Dr. Abhijit Das (Centre for Health and Social Justice); Trisha Agarwal (Centre for Budget and Governance Accountability) presented on various aspects of the UN SR-RH Report. Seventy five participants from six states representing various civil society organizations participated in this dialogue. (For presentations and other details, see here: http://www.sahayogindia.org/pages/programmes/maternal-health-and-rights/events.php)

The former UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health (UN SR-RH), Paul Hunt came to India on a mission in 2007 to understand the steps taken by the government regarding maternal mortality. The report provides a right-to-health analysis of the serious issue of preventable maternal deaths in India. The report has been recently tabled at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, where the current UN SR-RH Anand Grover presented it. The Government of India has taken cognizance of it and provided a response in the Council.

This dialogue was a first step by the alliance in wide dissemination of the UN-SR-RH report. The report is available on the University of Essex website within the list (3rd bullet)(http://www.essex.ac.uk/human_rights_centre/research/rth/index.aspx)This UN report is supported by a Supplementary Note which provides some additional background information, and outlines a right-to-health approach to maternal mortality.

To sum up, the dialogue brought forth some key suggestions to be taken forward. It was decided that one of the immediate areas of work to be taken up is long term sustained advocacy with parliamentarians on the issue. Moreover, the Planning Commission has invited Ms. Jashodhara Dasgupta to make a presentation on the Report of the Mission to India of UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health on 23rd August where we plan to present the recommendations that came up at the Public Dialogue. The Planning Commission has invited the MoHFW for this presentation.

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