Extreme poverty and human rights


Emergence of extreme poverty as an issue for UN bodies with responsibility for human rights

The United Nations first turned its attention to the issue of extreme poverty and human rights in the late 1980s. A major step forward was taken in 2006 in Geneva when, on the basis of work undertaken by an ad hoc group of experts with the participation of people living in extreme poverty, the Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection and Human Rights adopted the Draft Guiding Principles on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights. For the first time in UN history, a document specifically addressed the issue of extreme poverty in terms of access to human rights.

Efforts continued to produce a readily comprehensible and workable tool for all those working to combat extreme poverty, and a text acceptable to States. The task of drawing up new Guiding Principles on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights was entrusted to the Special Rapporteur.

France’s action and position

France has traditionally been active in urging the United Nations to recognise the link between human rights and extreme poverty. In 1989, France presented and successfully oversaw the adoption by the Human Rights Commission of resolution 1989/10, which marked the starting-point of work on "extreme poverty and human rights" at the United Nations.

Every year, France presents a resolution on extreme poverty to the Human Rights Council (HRC) on behalf of a trans-regional group of nine co-authors (Belgium, Chile, Peru, Morocco, Romania, Albania, Senegal, the Philippines + France).

France’s position is founded on the following elements:

extreme poverty affects persons who, through an accumulation of hardships and insecurity over an extended period, find themselves marginalised from their society and unable to enjoy not only their economic, social and cultural rights but also their civil and political rights;

  • extreme poverty, of differing degrees, may therefore be encountered in any country, irrespective of its level of development;
  • France’s aim is to encourage the adoption of national or international policies to remedy situations of extreme poverty and thereby enable such persons to enjoy the full exercise of their human rights.

The Guiding Principles on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights

The Guiding Principles on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights were adopted by consensus by the Human Rights Council at its 21st session on 27 September 2012, on a resolution presented by France and co-sponsored by 39 other countries. The Guiding Principles will be transmitted to the UN General Assembly General for adoption.

The Guiding Principles on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights are intended as a tool for designing and implementing poverty reduction and eradication policies, and as a guide to how to respect, protect and fulfil the rights of persons living in extreme poverty in all areas of public policy. They are based on a relational and multidimensional view of poverty that recognises that the empowerment of people living in extreme poverty is both a means of realising the rights of the poor and an end in itself.

The document adopted by the HRC sets out the principles that should form the basis for the design and implementation of all public policies to reduce or eradicate poverty or that have an impact on those living in poverty: dignity, universality, indivisibility, interrelatedness and interdependency of all rights; equal enjoyment of all human rights by persons living in extreme poverty; equality between men and women; rights of the child; agency and autonomy of persons living in extreme poverty; participation and empowerment; transparency and access to information; accountability.

The document sets out guidelines for States’ implementation of these principles and underlines the responsibility of non-State actors to respect human rights.

Updated on : 01.03.13