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For those living in poverty, many human rights are out of reach. Among many other deprivations, they often lack access to education, health services, safe drinking water and basic sanitation. They are often excluded from participating meaningfully in the political process and prevented from seeking justice for violations of their human rights.

The many dimensions of poverty

Extreme poverty is a multidimensional phenomenon. It is not just a lack of sufficient income; it involves many other factors too. Many international organisations still measure poverty based exclusively on income, such as the World Bank's $1.90 a day definition. These approaches fail to capture the complexity of extreme poverty and its wide-ranging impact on human rights. 

According to UNDP's Human Development Report 2019, over 1.3 billion people are living in multidimensional poverty, when measured by the Multidimensional Poverty Index.

A cause and a consequence of human rights violations

Extreme poverty can be a cause of specific human rights violations, for instance because the poor are forced to work in environments that are unsafe and unhealthy. At the same time, poverty can also be a consequence of human rights violations, for instance when children are unable to escape poverty because the State does not provide adequate access to education.

Poverty is an urgent human rights concern

The elimination of extreme poverty should not be seen as a question of charity, but as a pressing human rights issue. Its persistence in countries that can afford to eliminate it amounts to a clear violation of fundamental human rights.