1995/16. Human rights and extreme poverty

The Commission on Human Rights,

Recalling that, in the Charter of the United Nations, the peoples of the United Nations have reaffirmed their faith in fundamental human rights and in the dignity and worth of the human person,

Mindful that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights provides that everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family,

Recalling that, in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenants on Human Rights recognize that the ideal of free human beings enjoying freedom from fear and want can be achieved only if conditions are created whereby everyone may enjoy his economic, social and cultural rights, as well as his civil and political rights,

Reaffirming that all human rights and fundamental freedoms are universal, indivisible, interdependent and interrelated and that the promotion and protection of one category of rights should never exempt or excuse States from the promotion and protection of other rights,

Recalling that the elimination of widespread poverty, including its most persistent forms, and the full enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights and civil and political rights remain interrelated goals,

Deeply concerned by the fact that extreme poverty continues to spread throughout the countries of the world, regardless of their economic, social or cultural situation, and gravely affects the most vulnerable and disadvantaged individuals, families and groups, who are thus hindered in the exercise of their human rights and their fundamental freedoms,

Recognizing, moreover, that respect for and promotion of all human rights are essential if all individuals are to participate freely and responsibly in the development of the society in which they live,

Welcoming the relevant paragraphs of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action (A/CONF.157/23) adopted by the World Conference on Human Rights, emphasizing that the existence of extreme poverty inhibits the full and effective enjoyment of human rights and that its immediate alleviation and eventual elimination must be accorded high priority by the international community, and reaffirming that extreme poverty and social exclusion constitute a violation of human dignity and that urgent steps are necessary to achieve a better understanding of extreme poverty and its causes, including those related to the problems of development, in order to promote the human rights of the poorest, to put an end to extreme poverty and social exclusion and to promote the enjoyment of social progress,

Recalling its resolution 1990/15 of 23 February 1990, in which it requested the Subcommission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities to carry out a specific study of extreme poverty and social exclusion, its resolution 1991/14 of 22 February 1991, in which it recommended that the Subcommission should give attention more particularly to the conditions in which the poorest themselves can convey their experience and their thinking and so contribute to a better understanding of the harsh reality of their lives and its causes, and of its meaning for the international community, its resolution 1992/11 of 21 February 1992, its resolution 1993/13 of 26 February 1993 approving the appointment of Mr. Leandro Despouy as Special Rapporteur on the question of human rights and extreme poverty, and its resolution 1994/12 of 25 February 1994, in which it approved the recommendations of the Special Rapporteur relating to the organization of a seminar on extreme poverty and the denial of human rights,

Recalling also General Assembly resolution 49/179 of 23 December 1994 entitled "Human rights and extreme poverty", in which the Assembly reaffirmed that extreme poverty and social exclusion constituted a violation of human dignity and that it was essential for States to foster participation by the poorest, and expressed its satisfaction at the aspects of extreme poverty to which the Commission had invited the Special Rapporteur to give special attention in preparing his reports,

Recalling decisions 1991/6 entitled "Reaching the poorest" and 1993/8 entitled "UNICEF programmes for the urban poor", adopted by the Executive Board of the United Nations Children's Fund,

Noting the provisions of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which acknowledges that there are in all countries of the world children living in especially difficult conditions and that special attention should be granted to those children,

Noting also General Assembly resolution 48/183 of 21 December 1993, in which the Assembly proclaimed the International Year for the Eradication of Poverty, which will be celebrated in 1996,

Emphasizing furthermore the importance of the reflections developed in the context of the World Summit for Social Development, which will take place in Copenhagen in March 1995, on the issue of the eradication of extreme poverty,

Mindful of the report of the Secretary-General on human rights and extreme poverty (E/CN.4/Sub.2/1991/38 and Add.1 and 2), submitted to the Subcommission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities at its forty-third session, and his note on the subject (E/CN.4/Sub.2/1992/50) submitted to the Subcommission at its forty-fourth session,

Bearing in mind in this context the action already taken in the relevant forums to ensure the realization of economic, social and cultural rights,

1. Reaffirms that extreme poverty and exclusion from society constitute a violation of human dignity and that urgent national and international action is therefore required to eliminate them;

2. Also reaffirms that, in accordance with the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action (A/CONF.157/23) adopted by the World Conference on Human Rights, it is essential for States to foster participation by the poorest people in the decision-making process in their communities, the promotion of human rights and efforts to combat extreme poverty;

3. Acknowledges that this question will be considered in the future in the light of the declaration and programme of action to be adopted by the World Summit for Social Development;

4. Draws the attention of the General Assembly, specialized agencies, United Nations bodies and intergovernmental organizations to the contradiction between the existence of situations of extreme poverty and exclusion from society, which must be overcome, and the duty to guarantee full enjoyment of human rights;

5. Encourages the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights to pay more attention in its work to the question of extreme poverty and exclusion from society;

6. Welcomes the fact that the Committee on the Rights of the Child, in its discussions and work, gives attention to the situation of children living in extreme poverty with a view to promoting the enjoyment by all children of all rights recognized in the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and encourages the Committee to continue in this way;

7. Recalls that, to ensure the protection of the rights of all individuals, non-discrimination as regards the poorest and the full exercise of all human rights and fundamental freedoms, a better understanding is needed of what people living in extreme poverty, including the very large number of women and children in this situation, endure and thought must be given to the subject, drawing on the experiences and ideas of the poorest themselves and of those committed to working alongside them;

8. Endorses resolution 1994/41 of 26 August 1994 of the Subcommission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities in which the Subcommission took note with appreciation of the interim report of the Special Rapporteur on human rights and extreme poverty (E/CN.4/Sub.2/1994/19);

9. Takes note of the proposal of the Subcommission contained in its draft decision 11 (E/CN.4/1995/2-E/CN.4/Sub.2/1994/56, chap. I.B), and recommends that it be considered subsequently in the light of the conclusions of the current study on human rights and extreme poverty;

10. Welcomes the holding of the innovative seminar on extreme poverty and the denial of human rights from 12 to 14 October 1994 at United Nations Headquarters, which enabled persons and families living in extreme poverty from poverty-stricken areas all over the world to participate in a common reflection with experts and representatives of international, intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations, and takes note with appreciation of the report of the seminar (E/CN.4/1995/101) which it recommends to the attention of the Special Rapporteur and which it requests the Secretariat to transmit to the secretariat of the World Summit for Social Development;

11. Takes note of the conclusions and recommendations of the seminar on extreme poverty and the denial of human rights (E/CN.4/1995/101, chap. IV);

12. Invites the Special Rapporteur to continue to give special attention to the following aspects in preparing his reports:

(a) The effects of extreme poverty on the enjoyment and exercise of all human rights and fundamental freedoms of those affected by it;

(b) Efforts by the poorest themselves to exercise their rights and participate fully in the development of the society in which they live;

(c) Conditions in which the poorest can convey their experiences and ideas and become partners in the enjoyment of human rights;

(d) Means of promoting a better understanding of the experiences and ideas of the poorest and those committed to working alongside them;

13. Also invites the Special Rapporteur to give attention to the declaration and programme of action to be adopted by the World Summit for Social Development;

14. Requests the Secretary-General to provide the Special Rapporteur with all necessary assistance for the fulfilment of his mandate, particularly his consultations with United Nations bodies, Governments, specialized agencies, intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations, including, as appropriate, assistance from those with experience of the subject;

15. Welcomes the events organized by the United Nations to celebrate the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty on 17 October, which, in accordance with Commission on Human Rights resolutions 1993/13 and 1994/12, focused on the poorest and gave due attention to events organized worldwide since 17 October 1987 on the theme "Rejection of extreme poverty" which have underlined the relationship between extreme poverty and the full enjoyment of human rights;

16. Invites States, United Nations bodies and intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations to continue to give due attention, in celebrating the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, to the various forms of poverty;

17. Decides to examine this question at its fifty-second session under agenda item 7.
41st meeting
24 February 1995
[Adopted without a vote. See chap. VII. E/CN.4/1995/176]


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