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UN expert on extreme poverty and human rights launches first official visit to Guinea-Bissau

GENEVA / BISSAU (21 February 2014) – United Nations Special Rapporteur Magdalena Sepúlveda will undertake an official visit to Guinea-Bissau from 24 February to 1 March 2014 to collect first-hand information on the situation of people living in extreme poverty and to assess the initiatives taken by the authorities to improve their situation.

“At a time when fresh elections have the potential to reinvigorate the social structures of Guinea-Bissau, it is crucial to turn the Government and the international community’s attention to the needs of those living in extreme poverty,” said the independent expert charged by the UN Human Rights Council to monitor and report on extreme poverty and human rights worldwide.

“Concrete efforts to reach the poorest segments of society by the State and increased international assistance and cooperation will be crucial in addressing the entrenched poverty, inequality and lack of development in the country,” she stressed.

During her six-day visit, Ms. Sepúlveda will devote specific attention to women, children, persons with disabilities and other groups that are victims of discrimination.

“Guinea-Bissau faces a steep challenge in meeting its poverty reduction targets,” the rights expert said, noting that the country ranks 176th out of 186 countries in the 2013 UNDP Human Development Index, and that three-quarters of its population lives in poverty and 45 percent in extreme poverty, according to conservative estimates.

“This visit will help to assess the needs of the people of Guinea-Bissau and the critical importance of international assistance and cooperation to improve government structures and resource production and distribution,” the expert said.

The Special Rapporteur will hold meetings with senior Government officials, including representatives from various ministries working on social policies. She will also meet with representatives of the UN system, the donor community and non-governmental organizations.

Ms. Sepúlveda will also visit communities living in poverty in Bissau as well as in rural areas in other districts. Her findings and recommendations will be presented in a report to the Human Rights Council in June 2014.

The Special Rapporteur will present her preliminary observations on the visit at a press conference at 12:00 on 28 February 2014 at the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Guinea-Bissau (UNIOGBIS) facility in Bissau.

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 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

UN Human Rights, Country Page – Guinea-Bissau: http://www.ohchr.org/en/countries/africaregion/pages/gwindex.aspx

For further information and media requests, please contact:
In Geneva: Michael Ferguson (Tel: +41 22 917 92 60 / srextremepoverty@ohchr.org)
In Bissau: Leilani Elliot (Tel: +245 613 6047 / elliottl@un.org)

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