Report from a Seminar on the Draft Guiding Principles on
“Extreme Poverty and Human Rights: the Rights of the Poor”
Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Geneva
27-28 January 2009
IFSW was represented by our Main Representative in Geneva, Ellen Mouravieff-Apostol, at the recent seminar convened by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva. IFSW has been working hard on our contribution to the consultation on extreme poverty and human rights over several years. In the report which follows, Ellen describes what happened during the seminar and what happens next. We confidently expect that the IFSW contribution and social work principles will be reflected in the final draft.
IFSW’s involvement with the above mentioned long time human rights document in the making goes back to the mid-1990s when NGOs, and especially the non-governmental organisation ATD-Fourth World, first proposed the idea of guidelines against extreme poverty at the former Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights. The matter reached the former Commission on Human Rights, who in its resolution 2001/31 requested the Sub-Commission, with the help of an ad hoc group of experts, to draw up guiding principles on the implementation of human rights norms and standards in the context of the fight against extreme poverty.
Texts from experts of the former Sub-Committee as well as ideas stemming from extremely poor population groups with whom experts met in various parts of the world found their way into the present draft.
The Seminar was composed of Representatives of Member States, Representatives of UN-related Organisations, independent experts, NGOs and, most importantly, two persons who had lived in extreme poverty, one from France, and the other from Peru.
A group of 11 NGOs held a consultation on 27/28 November 2008 in preparation for the Seminar during which much existing text was tentatively amended, and new text proposed. Part of our conclusions might find their way into the Seminar report that will be available within some weeks. It is hoped that a definitive text can be submitted to the Human Rights Council, either at its 11th session in June or its 12th in September 2009.
Participants, and perhaps most of all NGOs who had worked hard on the text were delighted with a proposal to entrust the final version of the Draft Guidelines to the Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights, Ms. Magdalena Sepúlveda (Chile), with whom we intend to continue our collaboration. Such a decision will however require a resolution of the Human Rights Council which will hopefully be passed at its session in June. If all goes well, Ms. Sepulveda’s text should be ready by the end of the year, after which the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights will post a second and last wide-ranging consultation on line for final comments.
As seminars go, it was a good one where empathy with extremely poor people and harmony during the debates prevailed. Evidently, in this case no divisive or ideological matters intervened …
The IFSW Representative at the U.N. at Geneva expects that the Guiding Principles, when adopted, will be able to help Member States in the planning and execution of national measures to combat extreme poverty, hopefully in cooperation with persons and groups living in extreme poverty. IFSW anticipates that some of its proposals based on social work principles will be accepted as well as applied, and that the education of poor and extremely poor children will be always be high on any anti-poverty agenda.
Main Representative at UN Geneva