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The Human Right to Freedom from Poverty
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Human Rights & Poverty | Governments' Obligations | Governments' Commitments

Human Rights and Poverty

What is the Human Right to Freedom from Poverty?

Poverty is a human rights violation. Every woman, man, youth and child has the human right to a standard of living adequate for health and well-being, to food, clothing, housing, medical care and social services. These fundamental human rights are defined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, CEDAW, the International Covenants and other widely adhered to international human rights treaties and Declarations -- powerful tools that can empower efforts for social and economic justice worldwide.

The Human Rights at Issue

The human right to live in dignity, free from want, is itself a fundamental right, and is also essential to the realization of all other human rights -- rights that are universal, indivisible, interconnected and interdependent. The right to be free from poverty includes:

The human right to an adequate standard of living.

The human right to work and receive wages that contribute to an adequate standard of living.

The human right to a healthy and safe environment.

The human right to live in adequate housing.

The human right to be free from hunger.

The human right to safe drinking water.

The human right to primary health care and medical attention in case of illness.

The human right to access to basic social services.

The human right to education.

The human right to be free of gender or racial discrimination.

The human right to participate in shaping decisions that affect oneself and one=s community.

The human right for children to develop in an environment appropriate for their physical, mental, spiritual, moral and social development.


Human Rights & Poverty | Governments' Obligations | Governments' Commitments

Governments' Obligations to Ensuring the Human Right to Freedom from Poverty

What provisions of human rights law guarantee all persons the Human Right to Freedom from Poverty?

Includes excerpts from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

"Everyone ... is entitled to the realization ... of the economic, social and cultural rights indispensable for his dignity .... Everyone has the right to work .... Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services.... Everyone has the right to education...."
--Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Articles 22, 23, 25, 26

"States Parties ... recognize the right to work.... to the enjoyment of just and favourable conditions of work which ensure ... fair wages and equal remuneration for work of equal value without distinction of any kind.... a decent living for themselves and their families.... the right of everyone to social security, including social insurance.... the right of everyone to an adequate standard of living for himself and his family, including adequate food, clothing and housing, and to the continuous improvement of living conditions.... the fundamental right of everyone to be free from hunger.... to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health.... to education...."
--International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Articles 6, 7, 9, 11, 12, 13

"States Parties shall ... ensure to women equal rights with men in ... education,.... the right to work.... access to health care.... bank loans ... credit.... States Parties shall take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women in rural areas in order to ensure ... that they participate in and benefit from rural development and ... shall ensure to such women the right ... to have access to adequate health care facilities...; to benefit ... from social security programmes; ... to enjoy adequate living conditions, particularly in relation to housing, sanitation, electricity and water supply, transport and communications."
--Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, Articles 10, 11, 12, 13, and 14

"States Parties undertake to prohibit and to eliminate racial discrimination ... and to guarantee the right of everyone, without distinction as to race, colour, or national or ethnic origin, to equality before the law, ... in the enjoyment of ... the right to economic, social and cultural rights, in particular ... the right to work ... to just and favourable remuneration ... to housing ... to public health, medical care, social security and social services ... to education and training ...."
--Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, Article 5

"States Parties recognize the right of every child to a standard of living adequate for the child's physical, mental, spiritual, moral and social development.... States Parties ... shall take appropriate measures to assist parents and others responsible for the child to implement this right and shall in case of need provide material assistance and support..., particularly with regard to nutrition, clothing and housing."
--Convention on the Rights of the Child, Article 27


Human Rights & Poverty | Governments' Obligations | Governments' Commitments

Governments' Commitments to Ensuring the Human Right to Freedom from Poverty:

What commitments have governments made to ensuring the realization of the Human Right to Freedom from Poverty for all?

Includes commitments made at the Earth Summit in Rio, the World Summit for Social Development in Copenhagen, the World Conference on Women in Beijing, and the Habitat II conference in Istanbul.

"All States and all people shall cooperate in the essential task of eradicating poverty as an indispensable requirement for sustainable development...."
--Rio Declaration, Principle 5

"A specific anti-poverty strategy is ... one of the basic conditions for ensuring sustainable development. An effective strategy for tackling the problems of poverty, development and environment simultaneously should begin by focusing on resources, production and people and should cover demographic issues, enhanced health care and education, the rights of women, the role of youth and of indigenous people and local communities and a democratic participation process...."
--Agenda 21, Chapter 3, para. 2

"We commit ourselves to... eradicating poverty.... We will ... Formulate ... policies ... geared to ... eradicating absolute poverty by a target date ... specified by each country...; address the root causes of poverty ... food security, education, ... livelihood,... health ..., shelter...."
--Copenhagen Declaration, Commitment 2

"More than one billion people in the world today, the great majority of whom are women, live in unacceptable conditions of poverty.... Women's poverty is directly related to the absence of economic opportunities and autonomy, lack of access to economic resources ... lack of access to education and support services and their minimal participation in the decision-making process...."
--Beijing Platform for Action, paras. 47 and 51

"We are determined to ... eradicate the persistent and increasing burden of poverty on women by addressing the structural causes of poverty through changes in economic structures, ensuring equal access for all women ... as vital development agents, to productive resources, opportunities and public services...."
--Beijing Platform for Action, para. 26

"We ... are committed to a political, economic, environmental, ethical and spiritual vision of human settlements based on the principles of equality, ... human dignity, respect and cooperation.... Violations of human rights, ... economic imbalances, poverty ... are destructive to human settlements and should ... be denounced and discouraged by all States.... Promoting equitable, socially viable and stable human settlements is inextricably linked to eradicating poverty.... Poverty has various manifestations, including homelessness and inadequate housing.... People living in poverty must be empowered through freely chosen participation in all aspects of political, economic and social life.... Key elements of a poverty eradication strategy include policies geared to reducing inequalities, increasing opportunities, improving and providing ... access to resources, employment and income...."
--Habitat Agenda, paras. 25 and 115


For more information, please contact PDHRE

The People's Movement for Human Rights Education (PDHRE) / NY Office
Shulamith Koenig / Executive Director
526 West 111th Street, New York, NY 10025
tel: 212.749-3156; fax: 212.666-6325;
e-mail: pdhre@igc.org