Press Release

IACHR Urges States to increase efforts to eradicate poverty in America

October 17, 2014

Washington, DC – Within the framework of the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, which is observed on October 17, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) calls to Members of the Organization of American States (OAS) to do all in their power to end this scourge.

Poverty and extreme poverty push people into a situation of structural discrimination. In addition to the lack of income and financial resources, there are significant barriers to the access to a dignified life, adequate food and housing, services to education and health care, job opportunities and development, political inclusion and justice. In this manner, poverty becomes a structural situation of human rights violation. Just as it is indicated by the American Convention on Human Rights: "the ideal of free men 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."

"As long as there is poverty, there will be violations of human rights," said Commissioner Paulo Vannuchi, who is in charge of the Unit on Economic, Social and Cultural rights of the Commission. "There is no possibility that a person can fully enjoy their human rights if he or she lives in poverty. Poverty subjects the person to a state of permanent violations of their fundamental rights, where the right to life is weakened by the lack of adequate food, or by obstacles, sometimes impossible to solve, to address a health problem. It is urgent and indispensable that programs and public policies be sustained and multiplied to address this problem, eradicate poverty, and guarantee the right of every person in America to a dignify life."

Through efforts to combat poverty and extreme poverty in America, there has been encouraging progress in poverty reduction in recent years, but they have been insufficient. According to figures from the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) of the United Nations, there are still over 160 million people living in poverty in the region, representing 28 percent of the population, and of this figure 68 million people live in extreme poverty. ECLAC also warned that progress has slowed, and the United Nations Program for Development (UNDP) has indicated that an additional 200 million people would be at risk of falling into poverty. Meanwhile, according to official figures, poverty in the United States increased from 12.5% ​​in 2007 to 15.0% in 2012, while the levels of inequality in income and wealth distribution have increased in recent years. According to a 2014 study by Stanford University, the income inequality has been increasing in the United States for 30 years, arriving in 2012 to a situation where 20% of the poorest population had access to only 3.4 % of income.

Article 26 of the American Convention on Human Rights provides that States must progressively achieve "the full realization of the rights derived from the economic, social, educational, scientific and cultural norms." Meanwhile, the Protocol of San Salvador on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights expressly recognizes "the close relationship between the enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights and the civil and political rights, because the different categories of rights constitute an indivisible whole that is based on the recognition of the dignity of the human person, for which reason both require permanent protection and promotion in order to be fully realized." The Commission reiterates its call to Member States of the OAS that have not yet done so to ratify the Protocol of San Salvador.

The Commission urges Member States to adopt public policies, laws, procedures and practices to ensure the effective protection of human rights of people living in poverty and extreme poverty, and to continue to devote efforts and resources to eradicate poverty.

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 121/14