Presentation on theme: "Poverty and Human Rights Prof. Fons Coomans Outline"— Presentation transcript:
1 Poverty and Human Rights Prof. Fons Coomans Outline Human rights as a conceptPoverty as a conceptRelationship between human rights and povertyHuman rights principles underlying poverty reduction strategiesValue added of human rights based approach to poverty reductionExamples
2 Human rights as a legal concept Values and norms about the protection of human dignity, laid down in legal texts, that entail rights for individuals and obligations for states.Human rights as vehicles to protect human dignity.Requirements for a right to be recognized as a human right:Object: substance or content of a rightSubject: right holderDuty bearer: duty holder
3 Categories of human rights: Civil and political rightsEconomic, social and cultural rightsCollective or group rights
4 Economic, social and cultural rights Different definitions:Rights relating to an adequate standard of living;Conditions under which people live and work;Claims to the fulfilment of basic needs;Claims relating to the quality of life from a material and immaterial perspective;Claims relating to opportunities to make a living andthe protection of working conditions.Examples in the ICESCR.
5 Example Poverty in the USA: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ZukhSRMkug Is this example about poverty? → what type of poverty?Is this example about human rights? Which human rights?
6 Poverty as a ConceptWho defines what poverty is and who decides which people are poor? → often based on one’s own norms about what is considered as poor. Ask the people!Poverty line: 1$ per day.Poverty: relative and context-based: different types of poverty and depending on the place where people live and their socio-economic position.Poverty line is context or country dependent.
7 Income Poverty General meaning: lack of income or purchasing power Extreme poverty: households are unable to meet their basic needs for survival.Moderate poverty: conditions of life in which basic needs are met, but just barely.Relative poverty: a household income level below a given proportion of average national income.Child labour as a manifestation of poverty: child labour is needed to have a minimum family income.Child labour contrary to human rights: children are not supposed to work, but to go to school and develop socially in a safe environment.
8 Capability Poverty Amartya Sen’s capability approach: A person’s freedom or opportunities to achieve well-being.Poverty: low levels and deprivation of capability.Sen: poverty: “the failure of basic capabilities to reach certain minimally acceptable levels”.Basic capabilities: being adequately nourished, clothed and sheltered, avoiding preventable morbidity, taking part in the life of a community and being able to appear in public with dignity.In Sen’s approach poverty is a multidimensional concept, emphasizing capabilities or freedoms/opportunities.
9 Social ExclusionThe process through which individuals or groups are wholly or partially excluded from full participation in the society in which they live, often on a discriminatory basis.The poor view poverty and well-being holistically, including material, economic, social and psychological dimensions.Social exclusion: When as a consequence of marginalization, discrimination and exclusion in social relations, people lack basic security and the capability to lead a life of value.Example: the Dalits in India.
10 ImpoverishmentA worsening of the poverty situation of people as a result of a deliberate policy of the state or a failure or indifference by the state to embark on an active and effective policy of poverty eradication.Example: Ogoni region (Niger Delta, Nigeria)Impoverishent is often man-made, due to violent conflicts (Congo), discrimination of indigenous groups (Indians in Latin American countries), or as a by-product of environmental degradation (Ogoni-Nigeria).Example: Poverty in the oil-rich Niger Delta:Man-made povertyHuman rights violationsCorruptionLack of political representationPollutionResources do not benefit the local populationCrimeDiscrimination
11 The Link between Poverty and Human Rights Basic opportunities or freedoms, both negative and positive ones, which are considered as fundamental for minimal human dignity.Consequently, poverty can be defined as:Either the failure of basic freedoms (from the perspective of capabilities)Or the non-fulfilment of rights to those freedoms (from the perspective of human rights)Human dignity being the key notion underlying the idea of human rights protection: respect for human dignity is the opposite of poverty.Therefore, poverty can be defined as either the failure of basic freedoms (from the perspective of capabilities), or the non-fulfilment of rights to those freedoms (from the perspective of human rights).
12 Poverty seen through a human rights lens: A human condition characterized by sustained or chronic deprivation of the resources, capabilities, choices, security and power necessary for the enjoyment of an adequate standard of living and other civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights.Poverty constitutes a denial of human rights.(UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Statement on Poverty, 2001)This definition also establishes the link between the concepts of capabilities and human rights.
13 Poverty as a violation of human rights? What is a violation? A violation is an act or omission (failure to act) which destroys or harms the enjoyment of a right which a state is under an obligation to respect or to fulfil.Of which legal norm? There is no human right not to be poor.By whom? → Who is the duty bearer?→ Who is the perpetrator?However, human rights law contains entitlements that are imperative for people to move out of poverty.In poverty as a social condition, it is difficult to identify a perpetrator. The perpetrator may be the duty bearer (the state), but it may also be a third person, or just no one. In many instances of poverty, nobody is directly to blame. Also, depending on the particular situation, individuals have their own responsibilities.Legally speaking, a violation requires an act or omission that begins at a certain moment in time. Does that also apply to poverty?Poverty as a social phenomenon is no violation of human rights. However, it may become a violation depending on time, place, situation, persons affected and the conduct of the state. Sometimes poverty is man-made: poverty as a result of violent conflict, wrong policy decisions, corruption (Examples: Congo; land evictions as a consequence of World Bank projects; Nigeria – environmental degradation, or discriminatory practices – Dalits in India).
14 The United Nations position: The United Nations presently sees poverty as a cause and a product of human rights violations.Poverty is characterized by discrimination, unequal access to resources and social and cultural stigmatization. It amounts to a denial of human rights and human dignity.Fighting poverty is a matter of obligation, not of aspiration or charity.
15 Normative Human Rights Framework International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1966); Article 2(1)Declaration on the Right to Development (1986)Following Amartya Sen’s ideas Human Development means: expanding peoples choices and enhancing their freedoms.
16 International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1966) Article 2(1):Each State Party to the present Covenant undertakes to take steps, individually and through international assistance and cooperation, especially economic and technical, to the maximum of its available resources, with a view to achieving progressively the full realization of the rights recognized in the present Covenant by all appropriate means, including particularly the adoption of legislative measures.
17 Declaration on the Right to Development (1986) ‘Development is a comprehensive economic, social, cultural and political process, which aims at the constant improvement of the well-being of the entire population and of all individuals on the basis of their active, free and meaningful participation in development and in the fair distribution of benefits resulting there from.’Perhaps the opposite of poverty is development.
18 UN-Millennium Declaration (2000) “We will spare no efforts to free our fellow men, women and children from the abject and dehumanizing conditions of extreme poverty, to which more than a billion of them are currently subjected. We are committed to making the right to development a reality for everyone and to freeing the entire human race from want.”MDG’s: not framed in human rights language, but as policy goals. Accountability is therefore also mainly a political one.However, qua substance/contents there is overlap with human rights (esc-rights): food, health, education, water, protection of mother and children.MDG’s are no international human rights obligations. Human rights treaties do not contain an obligation to combat poverty.However, they contain rights that focus on an adequate standard of living in a broad sense.
19 Human Rights Principles Underlying Poverty Reduction Strategies Universality and indivisibilityEquality and non-discriminationParticipation and inclusion of marginalized and vulnerable groupsEmpowerment of poor peopleAccountability and the Rule of LawState obligations: progressive realization of esc-rightsObligation of International Cooperation- Human rights apply everywhere and can be invoked by everyone.Implementation of all human rights (civil/political AND esc-rights) is relevant for poverty reduction.A human rights approach to poverty and to poverty reduction requires a translation of the poverty concept into rights of people and obligations of states and other actors. People as active right holders.Poor people are often victims of discriminatory treatment: on the basis of birth, property, national or social origin, gender. There may be a need for special measures to improve their situation.- Discrimination affecting persons living in (extreme) poverty must be punished as a violation of human rights.Persons (or their representatives) living in poverty have the right to participate in all activities which concern them, particularly programs for the eradication of poverty.Empowerment means: claiming one’s rights and being able to participate effectively in decision-making processes. This means basically exercising one’s civil and political rights.Crucial role of the Right to education: as a key right or empowerment right.Duty holders should act on the basis of the law and democratic governance and may be held accountable before political and legal bodies. Accountability mechanisms include: court cases, Ombudsperson institutions, parliamentary processes and international human rights monitoring procedures.Progressive realization means that some rights must get priority in terms of allocation of resources and policy measures taken. These include the core obligations providing for minimum essential levels of basic services, such as minimum food packages, basic health services, basic shelter and basic education.
20 Example Key role of non-discrimination, inclusion and empowerment: Roma in Europe: breaking the cycle of poverty:Is this about poverty?Is this about human rights?What is the link between the two in this case?What is the link with empowerment?
21 Value added of a human rights based approach to poverty reduction: International legal human rights obligations accepted voluntarily add legitimacy to poverty reduction.Recognition of complementarities between economic, social and cultural rights and civil and political rights.Emphasis on legal obligations to realize essential services.Key role of non-discrimination as a legal principle.Accountability of policy-makers.International obligations are not imposed on governments.Realization of both sets of rights is imperative to tackle poverty.Key role of participation by the poor.Notion of core obligations; no retrogressive measures: no steps backward implying worsening conditions for the poor.Rights imply duties, and duties demand accountability.