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Eradication of extreme poverty, a global legal obligation – UN expert tells world governments

GENEVA (28 September 2012) – The United Nations Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty, Magdalena Sepúlveda, urged States to embrace and use a long-anticipated set of guidelines* on extreme poverty and human rights adopted by the United Nations Human Rights Council.

“The Council’s embracing of these Principles represents an explicit recognition by States that the existence of extreme poverty is an urgent human rights concern and a moral scandal, whose eradication requires concrete and coordinated action at the national and international level,” said Ms. Sepúlveda, who drafted the guidelines on the basis of a decade of international consultations.

“The Guiding Principles seek to provide for the first time a global standard in the fight against extreme poverty, focusing on the rights of people living in poverty,” the expert noted. “This is a practical tool for policy makers which will guide States in designing their public policies, particularly their poverty eradication efforts, based on a human rights based approach.”

The adoption of the Guiding Principles on extreme poverty and human rights marks the end of a long process that began in 2001, when the then UN Human Rights Commission first proposed the elaboration of such guidelines. Based on international human rights norms and values, the Principles provide guidance on the application of States’ human rights obligations in the fight against extreme poverty.

“Now I urge States to use these Principles to strengthen their efforts to combat poverty, and civil society organisations to disseminate them widely,” the Special Rapporteur stressed. “The Guiding Principles should assist in empowering people living in poverty to claim their rights, and ensuring that anti-poverty programmes prioritize the poorest of the poor.”

“Today marks a point in the international community’s position towards national and international efforts to eradicate extreme poverty,” Ms. Sepúlveda said, noting that the guiding principles highlight specific rights whose enjoyment by persons living in poverty is particularly limited and obstructed, and in relation to which State policies are often inadequate or counterproductive.

“The adoption of these much needed principles has indeed taken a long time, but it ends up being very opportune. These principles could play a key role protecting and empowering those who are hit hardest by the global economic crisis”.

The Human Rights Council will now forward the Guiding Principles to the UN General Assembly.

Magdalena Sepúlveda (Chile) was appointed as the Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights in May 2008 by the United Nations Human Rights Council. She is independent from any government or organization. Ms. Sepúlveda is lawyer currently working as Research Director at the International Council on Human Rights Policy in Geneva. She has extensive experience in economic, social and cultural rights and holds a PhD in international human rights law from Utrecht University. Learn more, visit: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Poverty/Pages/SRExtremePovertyIndex.aspx

(*) Check the Guiding Principles: http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Issues/Poverty/A-HRC-21-39_en.pdf

The Guiding Principles are also available in Arabic, Chinese, French, Russian and Spanish: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Poverty/Pages/AnnualReports.aspx

For inquiries and media requests, please contact Lidia Rabinovich (+ 41 22 917 9763 / lrabinovich@ohchr.org) or write to srextremepoverty@ohchr.org.

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)

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