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Mozambique must not lose momentum in the fight against poverty, says UN rights expert

MAPUTO (16 April 2013) – “There is a risk that those living in poverty in Mozambique will be left behind as the country enters a period of unprecedented economic growth, with extractive industries vying to invest in the country’s natural rich resources,” warned today United Nations rights expert Magdalena Sepúlveda, and called on the Government to urgently address the needs of the poorest and most marginalized in society.

“While some living in Mozambique are reaping the benefits of the country’s new found growth, more than half of the population continues to live below the poverty line, with the rural populace faring the worst,” the United Nations Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights noted at the end of her first fact-finding mission* to the country.

The rights expert expressed concern about the challenges faced by the groups most vulnerable and severely affected by poverty and social exclusion in Mozambique, in particular women, children and youth, older persons and persons with disabilities. She noted that women are the most affected by poverty, lagging behind men in practically all social indicators.

“Following independence and a brutal civil war that lasted almost two decades Mozambique made enormous progress to establish peace and stability, taking impressive strides in poverty reduction and establishing a robust legal framework,” Ms. Sepúlveda said.

However, she warned that there is no room for complacency, as Mozambique continues to be one of the poorest countries in the world, ranking among the very worst ones in terms of human development (185 out of 187 according to the 2013 UNDP Human Development Report).

“There is no doubt that Mozambique has made remarkable achievements in the fight against poverty but one cannot be satisfied with the existing situation,” the rights expert said. “Much of the population continues to live in poverty with the great majority of those living in dire conditions.”

“Today due to the country’s rich natural resources, Mozambique has a unique opportunity to guarantee a better future for the majority of Mozambicans who live in poverty,” she stressed. “The State must take all measures to ensure that the potential growth from the extractive industries does not violate the rights of the population, and moreover is sustainable, inclusive, and creates jobs and better access to social services for people living in poverty.”

“The Government must immediately address the critical needs and pressing problems of the poorest and most marginalized in society as a matter of priority,” the human rights expert underscored.

The Special Rapporteur urged the authorities to reinvigorate the political will and commitment that led the country to a new era of independence and eventual stability, towards ensuring a better future for all Mozambicans. “Mozambique must now redouble its efforts to sustain and build on the significant achievements until now, as well as to address the challenges of the future,” she said.

During her eight-day mission, Ms. Sepúlveda met with senior Government officials and representatives of Parliamentary committees, international organizations, donor agencies, financial institutions, academia and a range of civil society and grass root organizations. She also visited communities living in poverty in the provinces of Gaza (Municipios de Xai Xai and Chibuto), Maputo (Barrios de Xipamanine and Chamanculo) and Zambeiza (Quelimane and Nicoadala).

The UN Special Rapporteur addressed some key findings and recommendations during a press conference today that will be further developed in a report to the Human Rights Council in June 2014.

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

(*) Check the full end-of-mission statement by the Special Rapporteur: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=13229&LangID=E

UN Human Rights, Country Page – Mozambique: http://www.ohchr.org/en/countries/africaregion/pages/mzindex.aspx

Check the Special Rapporteur’s “Guiding Principles on Human Rights and Extreme Poverty” (in Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish): http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Poverty/Pages/AnnualReports.aspx

For further information and media enquiries, please contact:
In Geneva (before the visit): Orlagh McCann (+ 41 22 917 9695 / srextremepoverty@ohchr.org)
In Maputo (during the visit): Luis Zaqueu (+258 21 485 159/65/67 Telemóvel: +258 843082470 / luis.zaqueu@one.un.org) or Orlagh McCann (+41 79 201 0116 / 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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