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Poverty inextricably linked to discrimination and racism – UN Special Rapporteur

Link between poverty and racism

04 November 2013

NEW YORK/GENEVA (4 November 2013) – UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism Mutuma Ruteere on Monday emphasized that racial or ethnic minorities are disproportionately affected by poverty, with the lack of education, adequate housing and health care transmitting poverty from generation to generation.

In his report to the General Assembly, the Special Rapporteur focused on the inextricable link between racism and poverty, stressing that the continued socio-economic vulnerability of minorities is frequently the result of historical legacies, such as the impact of slavery and colonization, and state-sponsored discrimination. These historical imbalances continue to profoundly affect discriminated groups, causing successive generations to inherit the disadvantages of their predecessors.

“Discrimination based on racial, religious, ethnic, linguistic and also socio-economic factors exacerbates the vulnerability of these persons and groups,” Mr. Ruteere said. “The lack of participation of such groups in decision-making processes is also often the result of historical legacies.”

Discriminated groups, such as Afro-descendants, indigenous peoples, Roma, Dalits and migrants are especially affected by the different manifestations of poverty in the areas of economic and social rights such as education, adequate housing, and health care, as well as other rights including the right to work in just conditions, social security, food and water.

“Governments have the obligation to prevent marginalization, to ensure protection and to guarantee the enjoyment of human rights for all, including the right to education, the right to adequate housing, the right to health and the right to food and safe water,” the Special Rapporteur told the General Assembly.
He recommended that States review and redesign policies and programmes which may have a disproportionately negative effect on racial or ethnic minorities in view of their socio-economic vulnerability. States could then implement effective measures to improve the access of such groups to civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights.

Mr. Ruteere also highlighted some good practices and initiatives taken to prevent poverty and discrimination such as programmes aimed at increasing educational opportunities, laws which protect disadvantaged groups in the labour market, poverty alleviation initiatives, collection of relevant data, and special measures aimed at enhancing equality between all groups.

Mr. Ruteere also submitted another report which addresses the latest developments he has identified in relation to the continuing human rights and democratic challenges posed by extremist political parties, movements and groups, including neo-Nazis and skinhead groups. The report is based on contributions sent by 16 States, as well intergovernmental, non-governmental and other organizations involved in the issue.

See reports at:


Mr. Mutuma Ruteere (Kenya) was appointed by the Human Rights Council as Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance in November 2011. Learn more, visit:

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