The draft guiding principles on extreme poverty and human rights: the rights of the poor
In 2001, concerned that extreme poverty constitutes a violation of human dignity and that urgent national and international action is required to eliminate them, the former Commission on Human Rights requested its Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection and Human Rights to consider the need to develop guiding principles on the implementation of existing human rights norms and standards in the context of the fight against extreme poverty. In response, the Sub-Commission entrusted an ad hoc group of experts with the task of preparing draft guiding principles on extreme poverty and human rights, which were annexed to resolution 2006/9 adopted by the Sub-Commission for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights on 24 August 2006 and submitted to the Human Rights Council at its second session in 2006.
In its resolution 2/2 of 27 November 2006, the Council took note of the draft guiding principles on extreme poverty and human rights: the rights of the poor prepared by the former Sub-Commission, and requested the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to circulate the draft guiding principles to obtain the views of States, relevant United Nations agencies, intergovernmental organisations, United Nations treaty bodies and special procedures mandate-holders including the independent expert on the question of human rights and extreme poverty, national human rights institutions, non-governmental organisations, especially those in which people in situations of extreme poverty express their views, and other relevant stakeholders. A report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on the findings of the consultations was submitted to the HRC at its seventh session (A/HRC/7/32).
Pursuant to the Council resolution 7/27 of 28 March 2008, a second round of consultations was organised by OHCHR during the end of 2008. As part of these consultations, OHCHR organized a two-day Seminar during 27-28 January 2009 in Geneva, to discuss: (a) the added value and practical utility of the draft guiding principles on extreme poverty and human rights in helping to implement existing human rights norms and standards in the context of the fight against extreme poverty; (b) the technical legal merit of the draft guiding principles on extreme poverty and human rights; and (c) possible way forward on the draft guiding principles.
Results of the consultations and the Seminar
A report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, which reflected the final outcome of these consultations and the Seminar, was submitted to the 11th session of the Council (A/HRC/11/32). A more detailed account of all views and comments from States and other relevant stakeholders are summarized in a background paper prepared for the Seminar and in a final technical review of the process. These two papers werecommissioned by OHCHR to an independent consultant (Dr. Margot Salomon, the London School of Economics and Political Science) to serve as inputs and references for a future review of the draft guiding principles.
Overall, the second round of consultation process in 2008-2009 disclosed unanimity among respondents on the importance of preparing guiding principles on extreme poverty and human rights. A widely held view among respondents was that guiding principles have the potential to strengthen the implementation of existing international human rights law, rendering international human rights law and policy directly relevant to people living in extreme poverty. The adoption of draft guiding principles may not only provide international as well as local actors with a useful tool to guide them in the fight against poverty, but can serve to raise awareness among persons living in extreme poverty, and the population at large, as to their rights and entitlements.
The report of the Independent Expert
Pursuant to Council resolution 12/19, the Independent Expert on the question of human rights and extreme poverty submitted a report to the Council that presents her recommendations on how to improve the draft guiding principles on extreme poverty and human rights.
This report was presented at the 15th session of the Human Rights Council in September 2010. It includes both the rationale behind the report’s proposals and the basic conceptual definitions that frame them. It also outlines the main challenges experienced by persons living in extreme poverty that must be considered when preparing the Guiding Principles. Lastly it presents an annotated outline of the Independent Expert’s proposal on how to improve the draft guiding principles, divided into three sections: the first section describes overarching human rights principles that should frame all initiatives addressing the situation of persons living in extreme poverty; the second addresses overarching policy guidelines to help States eliminate core obstacles that perpetuate extreme poverty; and the third section clarifies States’ obligations under a particular group of human rights. Each of these sections contains concrete examples of measures and provisions the Guiding Principles should include.
Consultation on the report of the Independent Expert
Human Rights Council resolution 15/19 of 30 September 2010 invited OHCHR to organize a two-day consultation on the Independent Expert's report. This consultation took place on 22 and 23 June 2011 in Room XVI, Palais des Nations, Geneva, and benefited from the active participation of States, human rights experts, international and national organizations and academics.
In addition OHCHR asked for written comments and submissions on the Independent Expert's report. The written submissions were provided according to the following questionnaire in English - French - Spanish.
The contributions that were received by States, Experts and civil society can be found here.
Based on the consultation on 22 and 23 June and on the written comments received OHCHR submited an analytical compilation of the submissions received in writing and made at the consultation, as a report to the Human Rights Council at its 19th session .
The report is available here: E F S A C R
The way forward
The Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Ms. Magdalena Sepúlveda, will pursue further work on the draft guiding principles and submit a final draft of the revised guiding principles to the Council at its 21st session to allow the Council to take a decision on the way forward with a view to the adoption by 2012 of the guiding principles on the rights of persons living in extreme poverty.