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The Guiding Principles on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights

Based on international human rights norms and standards, the Guiding Principles provide for the first time global policy guidelines focusing specifically on the human rights of people living in poverty. They are intended as a practical tool for policy-makers to ensure that public policies (including poverty eradication efforts) reach the poorest members of society, respect and uphold their rights, and take into account the significant social, cultural, economic and structural obstacles to human rights enjoyment faced by persons living in poverty.

The Human Rights Council adopted the Guiding Principles at its 21st session in September 2012. The Principles are available in ArabicEnglish, French, and Spanish in a full-colour booklet format. They are also available in English - FrenchSpanishArabic - ChineseRussian - Italian - Polish - Portuguese

History of the Guiding Principles

In 2001, the former United Nations Commission on Human Rights (the predecessor to the Human Rights Council) stressed the need to develop a set of Principles on the implementation of existing human rights norms and standards in the fight against extreme poverty. In response, the former UN Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights entrusted an ad hoc group of experts with the task of preparing the Draft Guiding Principles on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights (DGPs).

The DGPs were submitted to the Human Rights Council (HRC) at its second session in 2007. In 2008, through resolution 7/27, the HRC requested the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights (OHCHR) to undertake a consultation and organise a seminar on the DGPs to gather the views of various stakeholders. OHCHR distributed the DGPs for comments to all relevant stakeholders including States, United Nations agencies, treaty bodies, and special procedure mandate-holders, other intergovernmental organisations, national human rights institutions and non-governmental organisations (NGOs). The Seminar was held in Geneva on 27 and 28 January 2009 and participants included State and UN representatives, human rights experts and civil society organizations. Background documents to this seminar are available here.

The report of the Special Rapporteur

Following OHCHR’s report of the seminar (A/HRC/11/32) and the recommendations of the Seminar contained therein, in September 2009, through resolution 12/19, the HRC invited the Special Rapporteur (then Independent Expert) on extreme poverty and human rights to pursue further work on the existing DGPs and present a progress report with her recommendations on how to improve the current draft to the HRC in September 2010, to allow the Council to take a decision on the way forward with a view to a possible adoption of guiding principles by 2012. 

The Special Rapporteur undertook several formal and informal consultations on the Draft Guiding Principles, with representatives of States, UN agencies and civil society organizations. For example, in March 2010, the Special Rapporteur organised a consultation on the Draft Guiding Principles on Extreme Poverty with development practitioners at Brandeis University, and in May 2010 she organised an Expert Consultation on the Draft Guiding Principles in collaboration with the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung in Geneva.

The Special Rapporteur’s report was presented at the 15th session of the Human Rights Council in September 2010.  It included both the rationale behind the report’s proposals and the basic conceptual definitions that framed them.  It also outlined the main challenges experienced by persons living in extreme poverty that must be taken into account when preparing the Guiding Principles. Lastly it presented an annotated outline of the Special Rapporteur’s proposal on how to improve the draft guiding principles.

The report is available here E S and unofficial translation into French.

Consultation on the report of the Special Rapporteur

Human Rights Council resolution 15/19 of 30 September 2010 invited OHCHR to organize a two-day consultation on the Special Rapporteur’s report. This consultation took place on 22 and 23 June 2011in Geneva.

To obtain more precise information and suggestions on this theme, OHCHR requested written comments and submissions on the report. The written submissions were provided according to the following questionnaire in English - French - Spanish.

The contributions that were received by States, Experts and civil society can be found here.

Based on the consultation on 22 and 23 June and on the written comments received, OHCHR submitted an analytical compilation of the submissions received in writing and made at the consultation, as a report to the Human Rights Council at its 19th session.

The report (A/HRC/19/32) is available here: E F S A C R

Adoption by the Human Rights Council

The Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Ms. Magdalena Sepúlveda, pursued further work and consultation on the draft guiding principles and submitted a final draft of the revised guiding principles to the Council at its 21st session (A/HRC/21/39: E F S A C R). The Special Rapporteur’s statement to the Human Rights Council can be found here: E S.

On September 27th, the Human Rights Council adopted the Guiding Principles on extreme poverty and human rights, by consensus, in resolution 21/11 (E F S A C R).  

The way forward

On 20 December 2012, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution on human rights and extreme poverty where it "Takes note with appreciation of the guiding principles on extreme poverty and human rights, adopted by the Human Rights Council in its resolution 21/11 as a useful tool for States in the formulation and implementation of poverty reduction and eradication policies, as appropriate." (A/RES/67/164, paragraph 17).

Now that States have shown their commitment to eliminating extreme poverty in a human rights-based manner, it is crucial that they put this into practice through the application of the Guiding Principles in all poverty eradication measures and other policies that impact on the rights of persons living in poverty. The Special Rapporteur is working to promote the wide dissemination and application of the Guiding Principles, in partnership with civil society organisations at the national and international levels.

For more information please e-mail srextremepoverty@ohchr.org.