Global Poverty as a Violation of Rights

Can Global Poverty be Regarded as a Violation of Rights?

Facts about Global Poverty

According to statistics acquired from the World Bank, poverty is a crisis affecting almost half the population in developing countries. This constitutes a quarter of the world population, roughly translating to about one billion people living in extreme conditions of poverty. The question as to whether this may be a violation of human rights may seem absurd but still one may argue that poverty inhibits the capacity of the individuals in question to “fully exercise freedom and enjoy their most fundamental rights, to live in dignity and take their place fully in society” (Andreassen and Banik 08).

The basis on which human rights are made is usually on the ability for all human beings to be free from the constraints of inequality, indignity, and to be treated with social mutual respect. At the International Conference on Human Rights in Vienna 1993, it was affirmed in point 1.25 of the adopted program of action that “extreme poverty and social exclusion constitute a violation on human dignity. It proceeds to state that extreme poverty “inhibits the full and effective enjoyment of human rights” (Mubangizi 132). Simply interpreted that the poor could not enjoy their most fundamental rights as they are unable to even afford access to provisions to which the rights were intended to protect against. For example, the poor could not really enjoy, say, their right to exercise voting because they can’t even read to begin with.

Can Global Poverty be Regarded as a Violation of Rights?

Arguments in Favor

The Universal Declaration of 1948 is inclusive of Article 25 that recognizes, among human rights, “the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of oneself and his family including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services as well as the right to security in the event of unemployment sickness, disability, widowhood, old age and lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control” (Mbonda 278). This statute was formalized further in the International Covenant on Social Economic and Cultural Rights adopted in 1966 as well as the UN Assembly which reaffirmed these rights. To lack any of the above factors will mean to lack a dignified form of living.

Arguments in Favor

Mubangizi defines poverty as the state one is in when they lack the socially acceptable or usual amount of material possession or money (134). He further compares this to inequality which he defined as “the condition of lacking equal comparison with others in respect to treatment, opportunity or status” (135). Thus, we observe that by being poor, one lacks a corresponding right that is due to every individual, that is equality. Organizations vouching for the poor such as Amnesty claim that for them poverty is much more than suffering material deprivation,” it’s being marginalized, being without power or influence over conditions that affect your life” (Mbonda 281). This lack of power and hence violation of rights are depicted, rather out rightly, in countries within Africa, whereby you’d find citizens living in slum areas being forcefully evicted from their homes and land sold to developers. The right to housing is considered a basic human right, its importance in particular is considerably linked to a range of most other rights. Despite this, the poor lack in the ability to defend this, their rights to decent living and shelter. This can be wholesomely attributed to poverty cause for starters, most of the people living in these areas are illiterate and lack finances to hire lawyers who can defend their cases in court.

The Arguments Against and Conclusion

As much as poverty stands to be a bad thing and a phenomenon that needs to be countered, it cannot so much be considered a right violation as an unavoidable circumstance. Political analysts deny the poor of any right to claim, in the prospective that no parties can be identified as having an obligation towards them. The countless theories on roots of poverty share a common denominator, being that poverties’ prevalence cannot be blamed on any one violator. “Calling poverty, a human rights violation does not point any concrete actions that the violator must stop in order to restore rights to the violated “(Andreassen and Banik 11). This argument does indeed have some logic behind it seeing as, in regards to poverty, it lacks to befit the core definition of rights. With rights, emphasis is usually on gaining liberation from certain oppression and in this case, nobody is actually denying the poor their right to an income that is adequate.

Despite the voluminous literature on poverty, the concept stands to remain elusive due to its inherent complexity. The poor are often said to be those individuals deprived of the means of self-sustenance, but however, subsistence isn’t merely physiological but rather also implies a notion of decency that is variable among different communities and from time to time. This suggests that poverty’s’ conception cannot be achieved at a global level. Khan depicts the impact poverty has on an individual as “suffering, physically and psychologically, from the deprivation of the means to live a life compatible with human dignity”. Despite the fact that poverty’s consideration as a matter of rights is absent from traditional doctrines, a contractarian approach shows each person as a member of community and, therefore, deserving from the community all necessities necessary to avoid being poor. Given that the community in question is inescapably global, it makes global poverty an international problem and it is a global responsibility to root it out and make it possible for each individual to enjoy a right to non‐poverty.

Works Cited

Andreassen, Bård A., and Dan Banik. “Editorial Introduction: Human Rights and Extreme Poverty: African Dimensions.” The International Journal of Human Rights, vol. 14, no. 1, 2010, pp. 4-12.

Khan, Irene, et al. The Unheard Truth: Poverty and Human Rights. W.W. Norton & Co, 2009.

Mbonda, Ernest-Marie. “Poverty as a violation of human rights: towards a right to non-poverty.” International Social Science Journal, vol. 56, no. 180, 2004, pp. 277-288.

Mubangizi, John C. “Protecting Human Rights Amidst Poverty and Inequality: The South African Post-Apartheid Experience On The Right Of Access To Housing.” African Journal of Legal Studies, vol. 2, no. 2, 2008, pp. 130-146.

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