Sunday, April 19, 2020

Poverty, COVID-19, and Human Rights

The UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty, Philip Alston, has called on the U.S. government to recognize and address the economic disparities that exacerbate the impacts of the pandemic in the U.S.  Said the Special Rapporteur in a statement issued on April 16, “The United States should provide immediate relief, such as rental assistance and suspensions of debt collection and evictions, as well as long-term solutions to protect rights and combat insecurity, such as a green stimulus, a living wage and cancellation of student debt. This is a moment to re-evaluate failing health, housing and social support systems that have made this crisis especially painful for the less well-off.” 

Alston conducted a formal visit to the U.S. in 2017, and at that time issued a hard-hitting report on economic inequality in the U.S., emphasizing the ways in which it undercuts American democracy, and the civil and political rights that the nation claims to embrace.  As the Special Rapporteur pointed out in his earlier report, "The United States is one of the world’s richest, most powerful and technologically innovative countries; but neither its wealth nor its power nor its technology is being harnessed to address the situation in which 40 million people continue to live in poverty."

As Alston notes, the current crisis presents an opportunity to change that pattern if we can muster the political will.

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