Wednesday, July 8, 2020

A Special Rapporteur's Final Verdict: Extreme Poverty is Not Being Eradicated

Last week, the incoming UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty, Olivier de Schutter, presented the final report of his predecessor, Philip Alston, to the UN Human Rights Council.  As is his practice, Alston's report did not mince words, stating that:

"The world is at an existential crossroads involving a pandemic, a deep economic recession, devastating climate change, extreme inequality, and an uprising against racist policies. Running through all of these challenges is the longstanding neglect of extreme poverty by many governments, economists, and human rights advocates."

Alston decried the World Bank's reliance on barely minimal numeric measures to assess poverty, and criticized others in the international community for claiming progress on poverty eradication based on those measures.

"Poverty is a political choice," he concluded, "and its elimination requires: (i) reconceiving the relationship between growth and poverty elimination; (ii) tackling inequality and embracing redistribution; (iii) promoting tax justice; (iv) implementing universal social protection; (v) centering the role of government; (vi) embracing participatory governance; and (vii) adapting international poverty measurement."

In the colloquy with the Human Rights Council that followed, Professor de Schutter indicated his support of Alston's call for a multi-dimensional view of poverty.

It remains to be seen whether the new Special Rapporteur can find ways to shift the political will toward achieving true progress on poverty eradication.

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