If one refers to the data of the World Bank, there are currently almost a billion and a half persons living in extreme poverty throughout the world, living on less than US$ 1.25 per day, and another billion persons living on less than US$ 2 per day – which corresponds to almost half of the human race. Although the World Bank’s method of measuring poverty is questionable, (v. Chapter III), the fact nonetheless remains that, according to the United Nations specialized agencies, today, some one billion persons suffer from famine and malnutrition; just as many lack drinking water, and 2.5 billion have no access to sewerage systems and sanitation; scores of millions of persons lack housing, and more than a billion are inadequately housed; there are some 200 million unemployed and 900 million working poor; nearly 800 million adults are illiterate; each year 6 million children under five die of illnesses that could be prevented…
For nearly a quarter of a century, the theme of poverty has occupied a prominent place on the international community’s political agenda, and the fight against poverty has become the official priority of cooperation and development programs. It has also become a priority for the European Union and several governments. Such focus and effort are reassuring, yes, obviously, because poverty ought not exist in our world, a world that is so rich. At the same time, one must ask why poverty suddenly emerged as a priority theme. Why was it absent from the political agenda before 1990? And why are we still waiting to see any success for the strategies adopted in the fight against poverty?
Although there is a consensus on the need for poverty reduction, poverty definitions vary according to time, actors and place. This is why it has seemed useful for us, in the present critical report, to analyze the concept of poverty according to periods of history and the powers in place (Chapters I and II) as well as the strategies planned and developed to fight poverty (Chapters III and IV). It will be seen that the quantification of poverty (in figures sometimes) mask many realities (Chapter III). This is also the case for contemporary strategies of the fight against poverty that not only disregard inequality (Chapter III.E) but are bound to fail (Chapter V). The treatment of the subject from the angle of human rights opens unexplored perspectives and constitutes certainly the best strategy in the fight not only against poverty, but also against inequality, and a movement toward universal social protection (Chapter IV).
Global poverty is a consequence of free-trade ideology, Extract by Francine Mestrum for Public Service Europe
ESCR, Substantive Issues Arising in the Implementation of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights: Poverty and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, 10 May 2001 (§§ 1 and 8, E/C.12/2001/10)