FOR A HUMAN RIGHTS APPROACH TO POVERTY REDUCTION STRATEGIES
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Foreword Poverty is the gravest human rights challenge facing the world today. With a staggering 40 per cent of the world’s population living with the reality or the threat of extreme poverty, and one in five persons living in a state of poverty so abject that it threatens survival,1 a world free from want and fear, the vision of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, is still a distant aspiration.
Poverty on this scale is no accident of fate. As the report of the United Nations Millennium Project argues forcefully, the end of poverty is an achievable goal.2 Governments around the world have expressed their strong commitment to eradicating poverty. Most recently, at the 2005 World Summit, world leaders reiterated their determination to ensure the timely and full realization of the Millennium Development Goals, including the eradication of poverty and hunger, stressing “the right of people to live in freedom and dignity, free from poverty and despair”.3 The challenge now is to translate these commitments into concrete action.
Poverty is not only a matter of income, but also, more fundamentally, a matter of being able to live a life in dignity and enjoy basic human rights and freedoms. It describes a complex of interrelated and mutually reinforcing deprivations, which impact on people’s ability to claim and access their civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights. In a fundamental way, therefore, the denial of human rights forms part of the very definition of what it is to be poor.
A human rights-sensitive understanding of poverty facilitates the development of more effective and equitable responses to the multiple dimensions of poverty. It complements more orthodox approaches to development and poverty reduction, looking not just at resources, but also at the capabilities, choices, security and power needed for the enjoyment of an adequate standard of living and of other fundamental civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights.
This publication, Principles and Guidelines for a Human Rights Approach to Poverty Reduction Strategies, aims to assist countries, international agencies and development practitioners in translating human rights norms, standards and principles into pro-poor policies and strategies.
The work here builds upon several previous publications of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Draft Guidelines on a Human Rights Approach to Poverty Reduction Strategies (2002) and Human Rights and Poverty Reduction: A Conceptual Framework (2004), drafted by Professors Paul Hunt, Manfred Nowak and Siddiq Osmani, and also draws on consultations with various stakeholders (including Member States, intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations).
While by no means a blueprint in such a complex field, I hope that this tool will prove useful at the country level in enhancing the quality, impact and sustainability of national poverty reduction strategies.
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
Acknowledgements The preparation of these Guidelines would have not been possible without the support, advice and contributions of a large number of individuals and organizations.
The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) is particularly grateful for the collaboration of the European Commission, the European Network on Debt and Development, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the Ford Foundation, the International Labour Organization, the International Monetary Fund, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development/Development Assistance Cooperation, the Overseas Development Institute, the United Nations Children’s Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, the World Bank and the World Health Organization.
OHCHR also expresses its gratitude to Professors Paul Hunt, Manfred Nowak and Siddiq Osmani, who authored the draft guidelines upon which the present document is based.