Human Rights and extreme poverty – Discussion on the Report presented by the Independent Expert

On 22 and 23 June 2011, Ms. Magdalena Sepúlveda, Independent Expert on extreme poverty and human rights, presented her report during a meeting organized by the High Commissioner for the Human Rights.

The primary objective of this meeting was to open a round of consultations with government representatives, Treaty Bodies and Special Procedures, UN agencies and civil society members in order to redefine the content of the guiding principles on extreme poverty and human rights formulated by the independent expert. These guidelines are an important tool to help States to adopt and implement an appropriate national legislation, as well as to assist them in the elaboration of policies and effective programs to combat extreme poverty.
The first day meeting was largely addressed to the analysis of the main causes and consequences of the extreme poverty, and to the adoption of a human rights-based approach as effective tool to fight extreme poverty.
The second day was a more technical meeting, with the examination and the review of individual provisions that will be introduced among the guiding principles for the eradication of extreme poverty.
During the meeting, many representatives took the floor: Mr. Jean-Baptiste Mattéi, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of France to the UN; Ms. Navi Pillay, High Commissioner for Human Rights; Ms. Laura Duputy Lasserre, President of the Human Rights Council; Ms. Magdalena Sepulveda, Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, among others.
After their interventions many issues arose: the necessity to establish a unique legal tool consisting of a set of guiding principles in order to find an adequate instrument to fight against extreme poverty; to adopt human rights based approach taking into consideration especially the most vulnerable groups, such as women and children.
The Independent Expert, Magdalena Sepulveda focused on the link between extreme poverty and human rights, claiming that the guiding principles represent an indispensable tool to eradicate extreme poverty, as well as to promote and protect human rights.
The Special Rapporteur on the Sale of Children, Child prostitution and Child Pornography, Ms. M’jid Maalla, underlined that the extreme poverty is not only due to the lack of financial resources, but it is rather the absence of dignity in life conditions, lack of choices and opportunities, and deprivation of economic, social, cultural, political and civil rights.
In addition, she emphasized the importance of enhancing human capital ensuring a free and universal access to a quality education, and give more attention to the rights of the child, considered a vulnerable category, often victim of abuse and ill-treatments.
Moreover, some representatives of two NGOs illustrated some best practices implemented in several countries around the world, finalized to eradicate extreme poverty. Mr. Benito Baranda, Director of “America Solidaria” and “Fundacion Nazional para la Superacion de la Pobreza”, stressed the lack of an effective system to fight against economical crises consequences which has a strong negative impact on the economic development.
Ms. Florence Tissière, representative of ATD Forth World Movement Organization, argued the urgency of measures to fight against the exclusion of poorest from social services.
During the two days of consultations, the majority of States expressed their deep appreciation for the elaboration of the guiding principles on the fight against extreme poverty, which are considered a valid instrument to help States in adopting effective measures.
The state delegates and NGOs representatives focused on some key issues, considered fundamental in the eradication of the extreme poverty phenomenon.
Firstly, States emphasised the necessity to adopt consistent and multi-sector policies and action plans (at both national and international level), aimed at solving specific problems giving priority to the most vulnerable and emarginated groups living in extreme poverty.
Secondly, several States underlined the importance to stress the link between extreme poverty and human rights encouraging Governments to adopt a human rights approach in their domestic legislation and policies.
In particular, many countries pointed out the necessity to guarantee the access to basic social services for all, such as health care, education and social insurance. Morocco, Peru, South Africa, Algeria and Chile affirmed that States should ensure to all children, especially those belonging to most vulnerable and marginalized groups (girls, indigenous peoples, refugees, migrants, children with disabilities), a free quality education, as a tool of empowerment and enjoyment of their rights.
Another theme dealt with by Brazil and Philippines, was the necessity to promote technical assistance and international cooperation, which facilitate the transfer of know-how and technologies, basic factors for the development of a country.
Furthermore, States mentioned the importance to ensure both the access to justice and complain mechanisms, and to compensation systems, which should offer a remedy to people victims of violence and abuses.
Finally, some Governments representatives recommended the involving of those living in extreme poverty in the decision-making process, especially in drafting policies and decisions that concerned them.
At the end of the meeting, the Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights thanked States and members of the NGOs for their precious contribution in elaborating and improving the guiding principles. She also affirmed that she will seriously take into consideration all suggestions and recommendations raised during the round of consultations.