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Joint Statements

World Medical Association [WMA]
International Council of Nurses (ICN)
International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP)





Promotion and Protection of Human Rights


The International Council of Nurses (ICN)
International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP)
World Medical Association (WMA)


Health Professions’ Ethical and Moral Duty to Care

Mr/Madame Chair,

Thank you for the opportunity to speak on behalf of the World Health Professions Alliance (WHPA) comprising the International Council of Nurses (ICN), the International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP) and the World Medical Association (WMA).  Together we represent three key health professions’ organizations and speak on behalf of more than 20 million health professionals worldwide.

WHPA notes with satisfaction the appointment of a Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health. We believe that access to health care is a fundamental human right. At the same time WHPA feels that the right to health is closely linked with integrity and independence of health professionals to provide care and treatment for all.

The UN General Assembly Resolution 37/194 spells out the ethical principles relevant to the role of health personnel in safeguarding human rights. Nurses, pharmacists and physicians are obliged by their respective Codes of Professional Ethics to care for all regardless of creed, colour, gender, race, religion or political affiliation. However WHPA is deeply disturbed that in a growing number of countries, health personnel are often prevented from providing care, and are themselves imprisoned, attacked and tortured or even killed for rendering lifesaving services to those in pain and suffering.

We are concerned that the roles of nurses, pharmacists and physicians are being undermined and their ethical and professional obligation to care for all is compromised. It is unacceptable that health professionals and emergency services are threatened at gunpoint and prevented from reaching those in need of assistance and care. Such conduct jeopardizes the life-saving work of health professionals and contravenes international humanitarian law, in particular the Fourth Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War of 1949, and the rules governing the conduct of hostilities.

WHPA strongly believes that the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health should include:

  •  Monitoring the role of health professionals working in situations where either their rights to give, or the rights of their patients to receive care and treatment are not threatened;
  • Appealing for the protection of health professionals when they are in danger of being victimized, and
  • Reporting of human rights violations by health professionals

Finally, the World Health Professions’ Alliance calls on the Commission on Human Rights, governments, NGOs and others:

  • To affirm access to health care as a fundamental human right of all individuals that should be unrestricted during political upheavals.
  • To condemn the denial of access to health care to people based on their gender, political, geographic, racial or religious affiliations.
  • To provide protection for health personnel against reprisals for providing care to all including detainees, prisoners and victims of torture.
  • To support the right of health professionals to practise within their professional code of ethics, and to ensure their personal safety, freedom from abuse, reprisals, threats or intimidation.
  • To uphold the UN General Assembly Resolution 37/194 on the role of health personnel in the protection of prisoners and detainees against torture and other inhuman treatment.

Thank you.


The World Health Professions Alliance brings together medicine, nursing and pharmacy through their representative international organisations, International Council of Nurses (ICN), International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP) and the World Medical Association (WMA) and represents more than 20 million health professionals worldwide.


  • The International Council of Nurses (ICN) is a federation of 125 national nurses' associations representing the millions of nurses worldwide.  Operated by nurses for nurses since 1899, ICN is the international voice of nursing and works to ensure quality care for all and sound health policies globally.

  • The International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP) is the worldwide federation of national associations of pharmacists and pharmaceutical scientists. Pharmacists are health care professionals dedicated to improving access to and value of appropriate medicine use worldwide.   

  • The World Medical Association (WMA) is a global federation of national medical associations, representing the millions of physicians worldwide.  Acting on behalf of physicians and patients, the WMA endeavours to achieve the highest possible standards of medical science, education, ethics and health care for all people.



For further information contact Linda Carrier-Walker Tel :  +41 22  908 0100;
fax :   +41 22  908 0101;  email:  ; Web site  www.icn.ch 







1999 World Health Professions Alliance (WHPA) Copying, downloading and distribution of material from the WHPA web page is permitted as long as credit in print is given and that the material will not be used for commercial or for-profit purposes without permission.