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Corruption affects disproportionately persons living in poverty, especially women”, says UN Human Rights Expert

On International Anti Corruption Day, the UN Independent Expert on the question of human rights and extreme poverty says that programmes to tackle corruption must take into account issues of gender and discrimination in order to be effective

GENEVA – “Corruption severely undermines the realization of the human rights of millions of people around the world on a daily basis”, warns the Independent Expert on the question of human rights and extreme poverty, Magdalena Sepúlveda, on International Anti Corruption Day, which is celebrated just one day before the commemoration of Human Rights Day.

According to Ms. Sepúlveda, corruption is a major hindrance to efforts made towards poverty reduction “because the very funds being allocated to poverty reduction programmes are too often diverted into the hands of corrupt elites.” She considers that corruption not only affects economic growth and discourages foreign investment, thereby indirectly affecting the poor, but reduces the net income of those living in poverty, distorts policies, programmes and strategies that aim to meet their basic needs, and diverts public resources from investments in infrastructure that are crucial elements of strategies to lift them out of poverty.

Where corruption is generalised, points out the expert, poor people are as exposed as others to the small-scale bribery of public officials (notably in the healthcare, law enforcement and judicial sectors) but the effect on their purse will be heavier. Large-scale corruption, meanwhile, damages the quality of public services on which the poor depend particularly, to meet basic needs. Here again they are disproportionately affected.

The capacity of the international community to reach the Millennium Development Goal to eradicated extreme poverty by 2015 is severely reduced and “the risk of not reaching that goal is great unless corruption is tackled as an integral part of poverty reduction strategies”, adds Ms. Sepúlveda.

The Expert further called on all stakeholders to place considerations on gender and other forms of discrimination at the heart of the planning process of anti-corruption programmes. “Taking all forms of discrimination into account is a condition to make these programmes effective” she said while emphasizing the fact that even though corruption undermines the rights of all affected by it, it has a disproportionate impact on groups such as indigenous peoples, migrant workers, persons with disabilities, those with HIV/AIDS, refugees and prisoners.

Corruption impacts men and women differently and reinforces and perpetuates existing gender inequalities. Ms. Sepúlveda stressed that “essentially because women are over-represented in the poorest social segments of society and under-represented in decision-making bodies corruption and clientelism affect them in a particular detrimental way”.

For further information on the work and mandate of he Independent Expert on the question of human rights and extreme poverty, visit the following webpage: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/poverty/expert/index.htm