UN official stresses the importance of human rights in overcoming poverty

High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay

4 August 2010 – The economic empowerment of the world’s poorest people will not happen unless their human rights are also considered, a senior United Nations official said today, urging governments around the world not to separate development and basic rights when devising policy.

Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, warned that “the interrelation between freedom from want and freedom from fear” must be central to the discussions of world leaders on how to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by their target date of 2015.

Global leaders are scheduled to gather at UN Headquarters in New York next month to assess the progress so far towards the MDGs, a series of targets for reducing social and economic ills, and where future efforts should be directed.

In an op-ed column that was published in Nepal’s Republica and other newspapers, Ms. Pillay noted that poverty remains stubbornly high in too many regions of the world, particularly sub-Saharan Africa and parts of Asia.

“We cannot afford to keep disappointing the hopes of those who live at the margins of their own societies – let alone the global community,” she wrote. “Their disenfranchisement may carry a higher cost than investing resources and political will in their empowerment.”

For too long, Ms. Pillay said, economic development and human rights have been considered by governments as separate issues to be tackled separately, with development treated as the overriding concern.

“Empowerment cannot be achieved if development policies are pursued in a human rights vacuum… Economic growth strategies can be a powerful tool to help us realize the UN Charter’s vision of a more equal, secure and just world in larger freedom.

“Human rights principles such as equality, participation and accountability and the rule of law are instrumental for development to take firm root and be both equitable and sustainable.”

A human rights approach to development is essential, the High Commissioner emphasized, as “it puts people in control of their own lives.”


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