Module 9

Explore the issues: Human Rights and Poverty

Answer True or False to the following questions.

urban slums1. Approximately 10% of the population in the developing world live in urban slums.

Answer: False.
In fact, the figure is much higher – 33%! Over one billion people worldwide live in slums, defined as living space where accommodation and sanitation falls well below acceptable standards. In Africa, over 60% of the urban population lives in slums.

UN Sustainable development goals logo2. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), agreed to by all UN Member States in 2015, require both rich and poor countries to take steps to eliminate poverty.

Answer: True.
The SDGS set targets all governments are expected to meet. Although the vast majority of those living in extreme poverty are found in the developing world, poverty persists even in rich countries. The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), agreed in 2000 and which set targets for 2015, only addressed poverty in the developing world.

3. When surveyed, those in extreme poverty overwhelmingly point to the lack of economic opportunity as the biggest obstacle they face to improving their situation.

Answer: False.
In the largest ever survey of the views of those living in extreme poverty (carried out in 20 countries by the World Bank in 2000), discrimination, the indifference of government to their plight, physical insecurity and violence, marginalization, and no or limited access to education and other government services, were all cited as key obstacles, alongside purely economic reasons. The World Bank survey concluded that powerlessness was the best characterization of the experience of those living in extreme poverty.

4. If extreme poverty is a human rights violation, then rich countries have a duty – through foreign aid and other measures – to assist poor countries in their efforts to eliminate poverty.

Answer: Probably true.
Although all rich countries do provide aid to global poverty alleviation efforts, few would agree they are under a legal obligation to do so. On the other hand, Article 2(1) of the Covenant on Economic and Social Rights, provides that states should take steps to implement the Covenant “… individually and through international assistance and cooperation …” which might suggest such an obligation (at least for states party to the Covenant). And, in the Sustainable Development Goals, rich countries have pledged to continue and increase foreign aid to the least developed countries.