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The present statement is aimed at encouraging the integration of human rights into
poverty eradication policies by outlining how human rights generally, and the Covenant in
particular, can empower the poor and enhance anti-poverty strategies. It is not sought in this
statement to formulate a detailed anti-poverty programme or plan of action, but to identify
concisely the distinctive contribution of international human rights to poverty eradication. The
preparation of operational anti-poverty programmes is a separate undertaking of the first
importance which all actors should pursue as a matter of urgency and with due regard to
international human rights.
The scale and nature of the problem
The President of the World Bank recently wrote: “[P]overty remains a global problem of
huge proportions. Of the world’s 6 billion people, 2.8 billion live on less than $2 a day, and
1.2 billion on less than $1 a day. Six infants of every 100 do not see their first birthday, and 8 do
not survive to their fifth. Of those who do reach school age, 9 boys in 100, and 14 girls, do not
go to primary school.”4 While statistics do not provide a complete understanding of poverty,
these shocking figures signify massive and systemic breaches of the Universal Declaration of
Human Rights and the two International Covenants, as well as of the Convention on the
Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the Convention on the Rights of the
Child and other international human rights instruments.
Poverty is not confined to developing countries and societies in transition, it is a global
phenomenon experienced in varying degrees by all States. Many developed States have
impoverished groups, such as minorities or indigenous peoples, within their jurisdictions. Also,
within many rich countries there are rural and urban areas where people live in appalling
conditions - pockets of poverty amid wealth. In all States, women and girls bear a
disproportionate burden of poverty, and children growing up in poverty are often permanently
disadvantaged. In the Committee’s view, the greater empowerment of women in particular is an
essential precondition for the eradication of global poverty.
While the common theme underlying poor people’s experiences is one of powerlessness,5
human rights can empower individuals and communities. The challenge is to connect the
powerless with the empowering potential of human rights. Although human rights are not a
panacea, they can help to equalize the distribution and exercise of power within and between
In the recent past, poverty was often defined as insufficient income to buy a minimum
basket of goods and services. Today, the term is usually understood more broadly as the lack of
basic capabilities to live in dignity. This definition recognizes poverty’s broader features, such
as hunger, poor education, discrimination, vulnerability and social exclusion.6 The Committee
notes that this understanding of poverty corresponds with numerous provisions of the Covenant.
In the light of the International Bill of Rights, poverty may be defined as 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

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