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International Council of Nurses
International Pharmaceutical Federation
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Joint Statements

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



Proposal for A UN Special Rapporteur on
the Integrity and Independence of Health Professionals

to the 56th Session of the United Nations
High Commission for Human Rights

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


Thank you for the opportunity to speak on behalf of the International Council of Nurses, International Pharmaceutical Federation, and World Medical Association. Nurses, pharmacists and physicians are key players in the health team - delivering health care to individuals, families and communities regardless of their colour, creed, gender, religion or political affiliation. On behalf of our three organisations, I would like to express our support for the UN High Commission for Human Rights in its initiatives to ensure respect for human rights for all people, including health professionals.

As health professionals, we believe that health and human rights can not be separated, since health is not possible for those whose fundamental rights are violated. We are therefore proposing that a UN Special Rapporteur be established to monitor and ensure the independence and integrity of health professionals to provide care to all people.

This is the third consecutive year that we submit this joint proposal, which we feel is worthy and requires attention. In recognition of budget constraints, we are recommending that the remit of an existing Special Rapporteur perhaps be expanded to include the surveillance and action on human rights violations related to health professionals.

Health professionals have an ethical duty to serve humanity in times of peace, during conflict and in disaster, to care for those that have been tortured, and those that are sick and dying, regardless of their political affiliation. It is incompatible with their professional duty for health care providers to be directed by governments as to who they can or cannot treat. Indeed it is against our ethical codes to discriminate on the basis of colour, gender, creed, religion, social status or political affiliation. To deny health care to anyone on these grounds would be a gross violation of professional conduct and subject to severe measures, including de-registration.  

Health professionals often suffer reprisals for providing treatment and counselling to those whose human rights have been violated. Governments that do not respect human rights often use torture as one of their methods of coercion. Torture victims require treatment by health professionals, who in turn often themselves become the victims of further attacks and reprisals. As we speak, health professionals in European and several other countries are being harassed, imprisoned and  tortured because they have treated patients who belong to other political parties.

It is paradoxical that health professionals suffer reprisals for providing treatment and care to people. It is unacceptable that they are often prevented from providing care, are tortured, imprisoned, banished or killed in the line of duty. It is equally disturbing that health facilities and health profession training institutions are too often targeted for wanton destruction.

Accordingly, we call on the UN High Commission for Human Rights, governments, non-governmental organisations and others to give their full support for the establishment of a UN Special Rapporteur charged to ensure the independence and integrity of health professionals in  providing care to all people.

April 2000




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.