Interpreting the Child’s Right to Health

General comment No. 15 (2013) on the right of the child to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health

The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child has determined the need to better define the obligations of states and other actors in realizing the child’s right to health. Following an expert consultation, Professor Laura Ferguson was asked to lead the process of drafting a research document to support the Committee’s work.

The United Nations Human Rights Council in March 2013 adopted a resolution that brought the U.N. one step closer to securing children’s health-related rights across the globe. Professor Ferguson played a key role in the technical, political and practical processes surrounding the landmark United Nations resolution to protect children’s rights.

Appointed as lead research investigator, Professor Laura Ferguson developed technical guidance for the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to help governments use human rights and to ensure their regulatory environments are supportive to maternal, newborn and child health programs. The document, “Technical guidance on the application of a human rights-based approach to the implementation of policies and programmes to reduce and eliminate preventable mortality and morbidity of children under 5 years of age,” has been reviewed by experts from all regions of the world representing United Nations agencies, international human rights monitoring mechanisms, academia and civil society.

The work started more than a year earlier when Ferguson began providing technical assistance to the World Health Organization and other partners as they coordinated research to help define the obligations of states and other actors regarding children’s right to health. The output of this process was a “General Comment” on children’s right to health. Issued by the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child, this served as an authoritative interpretation of the children’s right and clarified priority areas for government action across a range of topics, such as child mortality, nutrition and access to sexual and reproductive health information and services for adolescents.