GENEVA (17 October 2022) – As global inflation continues to sky-rocket, and prices of the most basic necessities become too high for millions to afford, the UN’s poverty expert has urged governments to index social benefits and wages to inflation.
“It is not hyperbole to say that unless governments increase benefits and wages in line with inflation lives will be lost,” said Olivier De Schutter, UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights.
“Whether in Europe, where inflation has hit a record high of 10 per cent, or sub-Saharan Africa where food prices have surged by nearly 24 per cent, household budgets across the world are being stretched beyond breaking point, meaning even more people in poverty will starve or freeze this winter unless immediate action is taken to increase their income,” De Schutter said.
“As with the COVID-19 pandemic, it is once again the most vulnerable that are paying the price of world events. The combined crises are expected to throw an additional 75 to 95 million people into extreme poverty this year alone.”
Ahead of a Council of Europe event today in Strasbourg on the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, the Special Rapporteur also urged governments to act quickly to insulate homes before winter in the Northern Hemisphere.
“Insulating people’s homes to keep them warm and safe is not rocket science, and failure to act in this area is simply down to a lack of political will. Not only will doing so reduce the energy bills of low-income households, it will also considerably reduce carbon emissions.”
The Special Rapporteur called on governments to involve people in poverty in the design of policies to tackle the soaring cost-of-living, pointing to the Guiding Principles on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights, adopted a decade ago, as a roadmap to follow.
“For far too long misguided poverty-reduction policies have completely failed to reach those in need, meaning poverty simply passes from one generation to the next. As policymakers attempt to shield low-income households from the current crisis, I implore them to call on the real experts – people with lived experience of poverty,” De Schutter said.
“The Guiding Principles are a secret weapon in the fight against poverty. They should be on the desk of every decision-maker as they navigate the worst cost-of-living crisis in a generation.”
Mr. Olivier De Schutter (Belgium) has been the Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights since May 2020. He was appointed by the UN Human Rights Council and is part of the Special Procedures, the general name of the Council's independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organisation and serve in their individual capacity.
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