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8 December 2006

The following statement was issued today by 37 United Nations special procedures mandate holders:

On the occasion of Human Rights Day on 10 December 2006, we express our deep concern that millions of people are systematically deprived of fundamental human rights simply because they are poor. From a human rights perspective, poverty can be described as the denial of a person’s right to a range of basic capabilities. Poverty is more than just a lack of income. Poverty is also about power and inequality. Access to and control over resources, social practices, and legal and institutional structures are also determinative factors in causing poverty.

Our collective experience, through communications and dialogue with States, country visits and thematic studies, clearly points to poverty as a cross cutting issue and a grave human rights challenge. Through our respective mandates, we have witnessed how poverty exacerbates the occurrence of human rights violations, reinforces discrimination against groups and communities, and denies individuals the ability to claim their human rights and seek a remedy. We are particularly troubled by the heightened effects of poverty on women around the world.

Poverty is part of a vicious cycle of marginalization, social exclusion and discrimination. Despite the persistent efforts of people living in poverty to change their situation, breaking out of this cycle is extraordinarily difficult. Poverty is also not just a problem of developing countries—it exists everywhere. Thus, every State needs to address poverty with utmost urgency. States have pledged to eradicate extreme poverty through the Millennium Development Goals and, in the Millennium Declaration, they resolved “to create an environment – at the national and global levels alike – which is conducive to development and to the elimination of poverty.”

Poverty is often a cause, as well as a result, of a complex system of human rights denials, in which violations of civil, cultural, economic, political, and social rights interact and mutually reinforce each other, with devastating effects. These rights are guaranteed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and other international human rights instruments. Poverty is also a key impediment to the realization of the right to development.

We firmly believe that any successful effort to eradicate poverty must advocate for full respect of all human rights. We also believe that eliminating poverty will greatly contribute to efforts to protect and promote human rights and human dignity.
We are convinced that in all countries poverty eradication strategies must be part of efforts to guarantee the enjoyment of all human rights. Consequently, we call on all States to recognise poverty as a denial of basic human rights, treat the elimination of poverty as a binding obligation, and prioritize poverty reduction in policy and practice, including through meaningful participation of the poor and allocation of resources for the fight against poverty. In this context, we wish to draw attention to several publications of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, including the most recent “Principles and Guidelines for a Human Rights Approach to Poverty Reduction Strategies”, and encourage the Office and partners to assist countries, international agencies and development practitioners to translate human rights norms, standards and principles into pro-poor policies and strategies.
At a time when the United Nations human rights system is undergoing reform, we would like to emphasize that the United Nations special procedures system is an indispensable mechanism for the protection and promotion of all human rights. This system was successfully designed to bring objectivity, expertise and credibility to the process of monitoring human rights protection. As special procedure mandate holders, we report to the Human Rights Council on human rights violations around the world, and work with all stakeholders to protect human rights. We are uniquely placed to raise the alarm about the most pressing human rights dilemmas, to highlight issues of continuing concern, to insist that Governments fulfil their human rights obligations and to support the effective implementation of all human rights. In the context of the on-going reform of the UN human rights system, this valuable system must be reinforced, to maintain the highest levels of integrity and independence.

The special procedures mandate holders are:

Ms. Charlotte Abaka, Independent Expert on technical cooperation and advisory services in Liberia
Mr. Ghanim Alnajjar, Independent Expert appointed by the Secretary-General on the situation of human rights in Somalia
Mr. Philip Alston, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions
Ms. Amada Benavides de Pérez, Chairperson-Rapporteur of the Working Group on the use of mercenaries as a means of impeding the exercise of the right of peoples to self-determination
Mr. Jorge A. Bustamante, Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants
Mr. Santiago Corcuera Cabezut, Chairperson-Rapporteur of the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances
Mr. Leandro Despouy, Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers
Mr. Doudou Diène, Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance
Mr. John Dugard, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967
Ms. Yakin Ertürk, Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences
Mr. Yash Ghai, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for human rights in Cambodia
Ms. Sigma Huda, Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially in women and children
Mr. Paul Hunt, Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health
Mr. Okechukwu Ibeanu, Special Rapporteur on the adverse effects of the illicit movement and dumping of toxic and dangerous products and wastes on the enjoyment of human rights
Ms. Asma Jahangir, Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief
Ms. Hina Jilani, Special Representative of the Secretary-General on the situation of human rights defenders
Mr. Louis Joinet, Independent Expert appointed by the Secretary-General on the situation of human rights in Haïti
Mr. Walter Kälin, Representative of the Secretary-General on the human rights of internally displaced persons
Mr. Peter Lesa Kasanda, Chairperson-Rapporteur of the Working Group on people of African descent
Mr. Miloon Kothari, Special Rapporteur on adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living
Mr. Ambeyi Ligabo, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression
Ms. Gay McDougall, Independent Expert on minority issues
Mr. Vernor Muñoz Villalobos, Special Rapporteur on the right to education
Mr. Vitit Muntarbhorn, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea
Mr. Manfred Nowak, Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment
Mr. Bernards Andrew Nyamwaya Mudho, Independent Expert on the effects of economic reform policies and foreign debt
Mr. Titinga Frédéric Pacéré, Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
Mr. Juan Miguel Petit, Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography
Mr. Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar
Mr. Rudi Muhammad Rizki, Independent expert on human rights and international solidarity
Ms. Sima Samar, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Sudan
Mr. Martin Scheinin, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights while countering terrorism
Mr. Arjun Sengupta, Independent Expert on the question of human rights and extreme poverty
Mr. Adrian Severin, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Belarus
Mr. Rodolfo Stavenhagen, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people
Ms. Leila Zerrougui, Chairperson-Rapporteur of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention
Mr. Jean Ziegler, Special Rapporteur on the right to food