ORAL STATEMENT

by Gerasimos Arsenis on behalf of

Marangopoulos Foundation for Human Rights

Item 3: SR on extreme poverty

12 September 2012

            We all agree now that eradicating extreme poverty is not only a moral duty but a legal obligation. Indeed, eradication of extreme poverty is a necessary precondition for human rights to exist, in real life.

            Our Foundation supported from the outset the Millennium Declaration which, inter alia, deals with the issue of poverty (articles 11, 12, 15, 20, 27, 28 and 29) and has supported all efforts to advance the draft of the guiding principle on extreme poverty and human rights and has made several contributions to substantive issues.

            Unfortunately, there has been undue delay in the finalization of the draft of the guiding principles, with the result that we are now finding ourselves in the midst of a global economic crisis, unprepared to effectively deal with the question of poverty. We are defenceless in witnessing the sliding of the middle class to poverty and of the poor to extreme poverty.

            The final draft of the guiding principles, indeed covers a wide field of specific issues relating to extreme poverty. But to declare principles is not enough. Norms without sanctions have no teeth. We should add teeth to our principles. I realise, of course, that we are far away from the stage where violations of human rights will result in sanctions of similar severity as in the cases of violations of rules concerning, say, international trade or finance. But, we should take a first step in that direction.

            In this respect, I propose that consideration should be given to the possibility of establishing, under the auspices of the Council of Human Rights, an international observatory to monitor policies of economic adjustment, especially those in which international organizations have a direct involvement. Such an observatory will enable us to evaluate, on a regular basis, the extent to which economic adjustment policies affect the extremely poor or may induce a process in which segments of the working population are led to live in poverty.