Statement by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, on the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty

Social protection should not be seen as an optional act of charity. It is, in fact, an obligation enshrined in international human rights law.

It is essential that global recovery plans and national social protection policies prioritize the wellbeing of children, particularly those who are already disadvantaged and suffer from discrimination. Governments can – and should – break the cycle of poverty for future generations by ensuring adequate budgets for children’s education, health, nutrition and other services and amenities that affect their standard of living.

Similar programmes and policies aimed at giving the poorest women the means and opportunities to earn a living are also vital, both for the women themselves and for their children.

It has been widely acknowledged that the financial crisis was a result of under-regulated international financial markets and of other distortions in global economies. The international nature of the crisis means that the responsibility for dealing with its negative effects on the lives of the poorest members of society, and on their ability to enjoy and exercise fundamental human rights, should not be confined to responses at the national level.

The Human Rights Council, whose membership includes both developing and developed countries, has urged the international community to support national efforts to establish and preserve social safety nets for the protection of the most vulnerable segments of their societies, and I fully support that call.

States have a duty to cooperate with each other in eliminating obstacles to development. The current financial and economic crises are a threat to human rights but also and opportunity to operationalize the right to development by instituting stronger national and international accountability frameworks, and building an international economic order that incorporates a clear blueprint for eradicating poverty.

We need to ensure that the millions of deeply impoverished children who currently populate this planet are not replicated generation after generation because we simply fall back into our old insouciant ways once the current financial storm has abated. Despite divergent views on the causes and effects of the global recession, virtually all governments, of every political stripe, agree that economic growth is needed to overcome this crisis.

A human rights approach to economic growth will ensure that the poorest men, women and children, instead of being marginalized, become empowered to play an active role in that process, with important knock-on benefits for society as a whole.”