Guiding Principles: Extreme Poverty and Human Rights

On 27th September 2012, the United Nations Human Rights Council adopted by consensus the Guiding Principles on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights. Through its adoption, member states of the Human Rights Council affirmed that eradicating extreme poverty is not only a moral duty but also a legal obligation under existing international human rights law.

 In 2008, Magdalena Sepulveda was appointed as United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights. She decided to give high priority to the principles in her mandate’s work.

 The objective of the Guiding Principles is to provide guidance on how to apply human rights standards in efforts to combat poverty. They are global in scope, recognising that extreme poverty is a phenomenon which effects all countries.

 When asked how were very poor people involved in the process, Magdalena said, “It is fair to say that the situation of people living in poverty was the main trigger of the idea that there was a need for the United Nations to develop these principles. We must not forget that Joseph Wresinski himself pushed for the UN to develop mechanisms to protect the rights of people living in poverty.”

 As a matter of fact, ATD Fourth World initially called on the United Nations to consider extreme poverty itself as a violation of human rights in 1982, collecting 300,000 signatures that were delivered to the then Secretary-General.

 Magdalena went on to say, “ATD Fourth World and other NGOs were consulted on various drafts, playing a key role in ensuring that the voices of the poor were heard in the process. I must say that for me, the formal and informal contributions of people living in poverty were essential in the development of these principles.

People living in poverty are often neglected or overlooked by politicians, service providers, policy makers and others. Their lack of political voice, financial or social capital and their chronic social exclusion ensures that they are an almost invisible segment of the general population for the purposes of politics and policy.”

She concluded by saying, “The next stage is to begin to make the Guiding Principles known in order for them to be implemented at national and international level. We have to work together to ensure that the post 2015 agenda on the Millennium Development Goals truly includes the voices of the poorest and most excluded of our societies.”

 The complete text of the Guiding Principles: Extreme Poverty and Human Rights is available in the following languages: