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New Zealand Response to ohchr note Verbale of 22 November 2011

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New Zealand Response to OHCHR Note Verbale of 22 November 2011:

In New Zealand, the policies and programmes relevant to preventing maternal mortality and morbidity (MMM) strive to be consistent with and comply with a human rights based approach. While the understanding of MMM as a human rights issue is a relatively new concept, the reduction of preventable MMM has been an aim of New Zealand's health system from the earlier years of the 20th century. Many of our existing policies and programmes in this area were thus developed and are implemented under frameworks which do not always use precise human rights concepts or terminology. New Zealand does not therefore directly rely on any explicit existing technical guidance on applying a human rights based approach in this area.
New Zealand has not developed this type of technical guidance for its international aid and development engagements.  However, through targeted interventions on sexual and reproductive health, New Zealand provides core and project funding to the International Planned Parenthood Fund (IPPF).  IPPF has developed technical guidance on the application of human rights based approaches to implementing policies and programmes.  Examples include IPPF’s Medical and Service Delivery Guidelines (Third Edition, 2004) and a Resource Pack on Implementing a Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights Approach targeted at young people.  These technical guidance resources should contribute to reducing maternal mortality and morbidity.

New Zealand does rely on technical guidance applying a human-rights approach in some other areas of health. In particular, issues to do with communicable disease often highlight human rights concerns - for example, whether and when a person with HIV who is presenting significant risks to others should be detained, to take an extreme case. Hence guidance for practitioners who become involved with people with such conditions as HIV or TB, or pandemic influenza, do contain reference to legal provisions that emphasise human rights.

While health outcomes on maternal health in New Zealand generally are very good, naturally New Zealand, as with all countries, is interested in further improvements. New Zealand has been a firm supporter in the UN Human Rights Council of initiatives on MMM and human rights. We have been proud of the progress made in the Council in recent years to recognise that the unacceptably high global rate of preventable MMM is not only a health and development challenge, but also a human rights issue. In New Zealand and around the world, the integration of a human rights perspective in international and national responses to MMM could contribute positively to the goal of reducing this rate. This new conceptual understanding has not yet fully been progressively implemented in practice and additional tools and guidance in this area could be constructive. New Zealand welcomed the thematic report on the links between MMM and human rights prepared by the OHCHR in 2010 and the compilation of good practices prepared in 2011. While those reports played an important normative role, concise technical guidance could play a very important practical role. The guidance could provide a better understanding, in concrete terms, of what it means to apply a human rights based approach to this work. This could assist policymakers and those working on the ground to implement policies and programs designed to reduce MMM. Accordingly New Zealand supports the development of the technical guidance and looks forward to working constructively with OHCHR and other partners on this project.

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