Human rights and extreme poverty

Commission on Human Rights resolution 1998/25



The Commission on Human Rights,

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,

Recalling also that the eradication 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 that, in the year of the fiftieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, extreme poverty continues to spread throughout the world, regardless of economic, social or cultural situations, and that its extent and manifestations are particularly severe in developing countries,

Bearing in mind the relevant provisions of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action adopted by the World Conference on Human Rights (A/CONF.157/23),

Recalling its resolution 1997/11 of 3 April 1997, in which, inter alia, it expressed its satisfaction to the Special Rapporteur, Mr. Leandro Despouy, for his final report on human rights and extreme poverty,

Recalling also General Assembly resolution 50/107 of 20 December 1995, in which the Assembly proclaimed the United Nations Decade for the Eradication of Poverty (1997­2006),

Stressing that, in the Copenhagen Declaration on Social Development and the Programme of Action of the World Summit for Social Development, Governments committed themselves to endeavouring to ensure that all men and women, especially those living in poverty, could exercise the rights, utilize the resources and share the responsibilities that would enable them to lead satisfying lives and to contribute to the well-being of their families, their communities and humankind, and committed themselves to the goal of eradicating poverty throughout the world through national actions and international cooperation, as an ethical, social, political and economic imperative of humankind,

Noting with appreciation the report of the Secretary-General on women's real enjoyment of their human rights, in particular those relating to the elimination of poverty, economic development and economic resources (E/CN.4/1998/22-E/CN.6/1998/11),

Noting with satisfaction the report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (E/CN.4/1998/122),

Welcoming the launching of a plan of action by the Microcredit Summit held in Washington, D.C., in February 1997, to give people living in poverty, particularly women, access to credit for the promotion of self-employment by 2005,

1. Reaffirms that:

(a) 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;

(b) It is essential for States to foster participation by the poorest people in the decision-making process in their communities, in the realization of human rights and in efforts to combat extreme poverty, and for people living in poverty and vulnerable groups to be empowered to organize themselves and to participate in all aspects of political, economic and social life, particularly the planning and implementation of policies that affect them, so enabling them to become genuine partners in development;

2. Recalls that:

(a) To ensure the protection of the rights of all individuals, non­discrimination towards the poorest and the full exercise of all human rights and fundamental freedoms, a better understanding is needed of what is endured by people living in poverty, including women and children, and thought must be given to the subject, drawing on the experience and ideas of the poorest themselves and of those committed to working alongside them;

(b) In its resolution 1997/11, it requested the High Commissioner for Human Rights to give high priority to the question of human rights and extreme poverty, ensure better cooperation between the institutions and bodies involved, regularly inform the General Assembly of the evolution of the question and submit specific information on this question at events such as the evaluation of the World Conference on Human Rights planned for 1998, the special session of the General Assembly devoted to conclusions of the World Summit for Social Development, scheduled for 2000, and the evaluation, at the halfway point in 2002 and the end-point in 2007, of the first United Nations Decade for the Eradication of Poverty;

3. Requests the High Commissioner for Human Rights to include in the mid­term evaluation report on the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action the progress made regarding the full enjoyment of all human rights and the alleviation of extreme poverty in accordance with the relevant provisions of the Declaration;

4. Calls upon:

(a) The General Assembly, specialized agencies, United Nations bodies and intergovernmental organizations to take into account 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;

(b) States and intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations to continue to take into account, in the activities to be undertaken within the framework of the United Nations Decade for the Eradication of Poverty, the links between extreme poverty and human rights, as well as the efforts to empower people living in poverty to participate in decision-making processes on policies that affect them;

5. Invites:

(a) The treaty bodies monitoring the application of human rights instruments, especially the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Committee on the Rights of the Child, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women and the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, to take into account, when considering the reports of States parties, the question of extreme poverty and human rights;

(b) States, the organs of the United Nations system, particularly the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and the United Nations Development Programme, and intergovernmental and non­governmental organizations to focus the activities undertaken for the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, 17 October 1998, on “Poverty, human rights and development”, the theme chosen for 1998 in the context of the United Nations Decade for the Eradication of Poverty;

6. Decides to appoint, for a period of two years, an independent expert on the question of human rights and extreme poverty to:

(a) Evaluate the relationship between the promotion and protection of human rights and extreme poverty, including through the evaluation of measures taken at the national and international levels to promote the full enjoyment of human rights by persons living in extreme poverty;

(b) Take into account in particular the obstacles encountered and progress made by women living in extreme poverty as regards the enjoyment of their fundamental rights;

(c) Make recommendations and, as appropriate, proposals in the sphere of technical assistance;

(d) Report on these activities to the Commission on Human Rights at its fifty-fifth and fifty-sixth sessions and to make those reports available to the Commission for Social Development and the Commission on the Status of Women, as appropriate, for their sessions during the same years;

(e) Contribute to the General Assembly’s evaluation in 2000 of the World Summit for Social Development by making his or her final report and conclusions available to the preparatory committee for the special session of the General Assembly devoted to that evaluation;

(f) Make suggestions to the Commission on Human Rights at its fifty-fifth session on the main points of a possible draft declaration on human rights and extreme poverty so that the Commission can consider the possibility of initiating at the fifty-first session of the Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities the drafting by that body of a text for examination by the Commission and possible adoption by the General Assembly, and to take into account in that regard, inter alia, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, the Copenhagen Declaration and Programme of Action of the World Summit for Social Development, the Agenda for Development and the final report of the Special Rapporteur, Mr. Leandro Despouy (E/CN.4/Sub.2/1996/13);

7. Also decides to consider this question at its fifty-fifth session under the agenda item;

8. Recommends the following draft decision to the Economic and Social Council for adoption:

"Human rights and extreme poverty

The Economic and Social Council, taking note of Commission on Human Rights resolution 1998/25 of 17 April 1998, endorses the Commission’s decision to appoint, for a period of two years, an independent expert on the question of human rights and extreme poverty to:

(a) Evaluate the relationship between the promotion and protection of human rights and extreme poverty, including through the evaluation of measures taken at the national and international levels to promote the full enjoyment of human rights by persons living in extreme poverty;

(b) Take into account in particular the obstacles encountered and progress made by women living in extreme poverty as regards the enjoyment of their fundamental rights;

(c) Make recommendations and, as appropriate, proposals in the sphere of technical assistance;

(d) Report on these activities to the Commission on Human Rights at its fifty-fifth and fifty-sixth sessions and to make those reports available to the Commission for Social Development and the Commission on the Status of Women, as appropriate, for their sessions during the same years;

(e) Contribute to the General Assembly’s evaluation in 2000 of the World Summit for Social Development by making his or her final report and conclusions available to the preparatory committee for the special session of the General Assembly devoted to that evaluation;


(f) Make suggestions to the Commission on Human Rights at its fifty-fifth session on the main points of a possible draft declaration on human rights and extreme poverty so that the Commission can consider the possibility of initiating at the fifty-first session of the Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities the drafting by that body of a text for examination by the Commission and possible adoption by the General Assembly, and to take into account in that regard, inter alia, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, the Copenhagen Declaration and Programme of Action of the World Summit for Social Development, the Agenda for Development and the final report of the Special Rapporteur, Mr. Leandro Despouy (E/CN.4/Sub.2/1996/13)."


51st meeting
17 April 1998

[Adopted by a roll­call vote of 51 votes to 1. See chap. V.]


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