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Everyone has the right to be treated with Dignity
by OHCHR, International Movement ATD Fourth World
Nov. 2022
Banning discrimination on grounds of socioeconomic disadvantage, report by the UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights
“Povertyism” – negative attitudes and behaviours towards people living in poverty – is as pervasive, toxic and harmful as racism, sexism and other forms of discrimination and should be treated as such, according to a new report published by the UN expert on poverty.
“People are stereotyped and discriminated against purely because they are poor. This is frankly sickening and a stain on our society,” UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Olivier De Schutter, told the UN General Assembly as it met for its 77th session in New York.
“As the global rise in energy and food prices throws millions more into poverty, they must be protected not just from the horrors of poverty, but also from the humiliation and exclusion caused by the scourge of povertyism,” De Schutter said.
The Special Rapporteur called on governments to urgently review their anti-discrimination laws, as well as consider “pro-poor” affirmative action, to ensure povertyism is wiped out.
“The dangerously misplaced belief that people living in poverty are to blame for their condition, and therefore somehow socially inferior, has a firm grip on society and will not disappear on its own,” De Schutter said.
“It is high time the law intervened to ban discrimination on grounds of socio-economic status, as many countries have already done with race, sex, age or disability.”
The report finds that povertyism has become firmly entrenched in public and private institutions, largely because decision-making positions tend to be held by those from higher-income backgrounds, skewing the system against people in poverty.
It details cases where children from low-income families have been refused access to certain schools, employers have judged CVs more harshly when the address suggests the person lives in poverty, and landlords have refused to rent apartments to tenants receiving social benefits. Even judges have been found to hand out harsher sentences based on anti-poor stereotypes.
Negative stereotyping against those on low incomes is also rife in social services, where people applying for social benefits have reported being treated with suspicion and disdain. Millions of dollars in benefits are going unclaimed as a result, with potential beneficiaries preferring to avoid the humiliation of applying. This is a major reason for the non-take-up of rights which is severely weakening the world’s social protection programmes, the report said.
“Poverty will never be eradicated while povertyism is allowed to fester, restricting access to education, housing, employment and social benefits to those who need them the most,” De Schutter said.
“The world is finally waking up to the injustices of racism, sexism and other forms of discrimination, and putting laws in place to stop them from destroying people’s lives,” the UN expert said. “Povertyism is an affront to human rights, has no place in this world and must be treated just as seriously.”
Oct. 2022
Everyone has the right to be treated with Dignity - International Movement ATD Fourth World
This year marks the 35th anniversary of the World Day for Overcoming Poverty, which was first observed in Paris on October 17, 1987 when thousands of people came together to defend the dignity and human rights of people living in poverty.
Working with ATD Fourth World, the United Nations consulted people with lived experience of poverty, as well as their allies and friends around the world, to select the theme for this year’s October 17 observance: “Dignity for All in Practice.”
This theme recognizes and highlights that all people everywhere have the right to be treated with dignity — that, as human beings, we are entitled to respect and recognition from one another.
Yet, despite the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, millions of people today, especially people living in poverty, still suffer unacceptable indignities and human rights violations in their daily lives.
Their human dignity is denied and violated when they are forced to live in extreme poverty, when they must endure deprivations in so many aspects of their lives, and when they suffer social exclusion, discrimination, stigmatisation, and shame.
"When human dignity is denied, it weakens and threatens the very foundation of human rights itself".
ATD founder Joseph Wresinski observed unerringly that: “The ultimate goal of human rights is the protection of human dignity. It follows that implementing these rights will lead to all people living in freedom, justice, and peace. Only if they are taken as a whole can these rights guarantee human dignity. This is why all human rights must be protected at the same time.”
While Governments have the primary responsibility to defend and protect human rights, we have seen that government policies alone have not been able to fully protect and defend the human rights of all their citizens.
"What is required is for everyone to come together in solidarity to ensure that human dignity and rights are respected and protected".
Only by acting together can we ever hope to change our current economic and social systems — based largely on competition and division — that have created and perpetuated extreme poverty and social division in a world of plenty and encouraged the wanton exploitation of our fragile planet that has driven us to the brink of a global climate disaster.
Only when we act together to end poverty and social injustice can we ever hope to achieve lasting peace and learn to live in harmony with our planet. This is why we come together in solidarity on October 17.
* Donald Lee, President, International Movement ATD Fourth World

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Crisis fatigue not an option as global hunger crisis deepens
by International Red Cross, Red Crescent Movement
Sep. 2022 (ICRC/IFRC)
The warning lights are flashing on high: armed conflict, climate-related emergencies, economic hardship and political obstacles are leading to a growing wave of hunger in countries around the world. The misery for millions will deepen without immediate urgent action.
Systems-level improvements must be made to escape a cycle of recurrent crises, including investments in climate-smart food production in conflict-affected areas, and reliable mechanisms to support hard-to-reach communities hit by food shortages and skyrocketing prices, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said ahead of the upcoming United Nations General Assembly.
The international armed conflict in Ukraine has greatly disrupted global food supply systems as well as future harvests in many countries due to the impact it's having on the availability of fertilizer. The importance of more shipments by the Black Sea grain initiative reaching vulnerable populations in East Africa cannot be overstated. Too few grain shipments are getting to where they are needed.
As hunger emergencies hit the headlines, the risk of crisis fatigue is high. Yet what's uniquely frightening about this moment is the breadth and depth of the needs. More than 140 million people face acute food insecurity due to conflict and instability, even as climate change and economic precarity indicate that hunger needs will rise in the coming months.
Political will and resources are needed now. Without them, many lives will be lost, and the suffering will endure for years. An emergency response alone will not end these hunger crises. Concerted action and long-term approaches are the only way to break the cycle.
While addressing urgent needs, it is essential to set the foundation for resilience. More efforts must be made --- by governments, private sectors, and humanitarian and development groups --- to support long-term food security, livelihoods, and resilience plans.
Measures must include investments in strengthening grassroots food systems and community actors to sustainably achieve food and economic security. One of the approaches to consider is anticipatory action for food security, based on forecasts and risk analysis.
Francesco Rocca, President of the IFRC, said:
"Two dozen countries across Africa are grappling with the worst food crisis in decades. Some 22 million people in the Horn of Africa are in the clutches of starvation due to such compounding crises as drought, flooding, COVID-19's economic effects, conflict -- even desert locusts. Behind the staggeringly high numbers are real people -- men, women and children battling death-level hunger every day. The situation is expected to deteriorate into 2023. However, with swift action, many lives can be saved. We need urgent and massive action to scale up life-saving assistance to millions of people in dire need of aid, but also to decisively address the root causes of this crisis through longer term commitments."
The IFRC and its membership---which consists of Red Cross and Red Crescent teams in nearly every corner of the globe---are delivering aid in hard-to-reach communities. Assistance includes getting cash into the hands of families to meet food, health and other urgent needs. In Nigeria, Red Cross volunteers focus on pregnant and breastfeeding mothers, whose nutrition is paramount for healthy births and childhoods. In Madagascar, volunteers restore land and water sources through anti-erosion activities, the construction of water points, and a focus on irrigation in addition to traditional ways to fight hunger, like nutrition monitoring.
Peter Maurer, President of the ICRC, said:
"Conflict is a huge driver of hunger. We see violence preventing farmers from planting and harvesting. We see sanctions and blockades preventing food delivery to the most vulnerable. My wish is that we build resiliency into the fabric of humanitarian response, so that communities suffer less when violence and climate change upend lives. A cycle of band-aid solutions will not be enough in coming years."
The ICRC this year has helped nearly 1 million people in south and central Somalia buy a month's worth of food by distributing cash to more than 150,000 households. A similar programme in Nigeria helped 675,000 people, while more than a quarter million people received climate smart agriculture inputs to restore crop production. The ICRC works to strengthen resilience through seeds, tools and livestock care so that residents can better absorb recurrent shocks. And its medical professionals are running stabilization centres in places like Somalia, where kids are getting specialized nutrition care.
Communities around the world are suffering deep hardship. A short snapshot of some of the regions in need includes:
In Sub-Saharan Africa: One in three children under the age of five is stunted by chronic undernutrition, while two out of five women of childbearing age are anaemic because of poor diets. The majority of people in sub-Saharan Africa live on less than $1.90 a day.
In Afghanistan: The combination of three decades of armed conflict and an economic crash resulting in few job opportunities and a massive banking crisis are having a devastating effect on Afghan families' ability to buy food. More than half the country -- 24 million -- need assistance. The International Red Cross Red Crescent Movement welcomes any measure aimed at easing the effect of economic sanctions. But given the depth of the humanitarian crisis, long-term solutions are also needed, including the resumption of projects and investments by states and development agencies in key infrastructure.
In Pakistan: The recent flooding has led to an estimated $12 billion in losses. Food security in the country was alarming before this latest catastrophe, with 43 percent of the population food insecure. Now the number of acutely hungry people is expected to rise substantially. Some 78,000 square kilometers (21 million acres) of crops are under water. An estimated 65 percent of the country's food basket -- crops like rice and wheat-- have been destroyed, with over 733,000 livestock reportedly killed. The floods will also negatively affect food delivery into neighboring Afghanistan.
In Somalia: We have seen a five-fold increase in the number of malnourished children needing care. Last month the Bay Regional Hospital in Baidoa admitted 466 children, up from 82 in August 2021. Children admitted here die without the specialized nutritional care they receive.
In Syria: Food insecurity rates have risen more than 50 percent since 2019. Today, two-thirds of Syria's population --12.4 million out of 18 million -- can't meet their daily food needs. The compounding effects of more than a decade of conflict, including the consequences of sanctions, have crippled people's buying power. Food prices have risen five-fold in the last two years.
In Yemen: Most Yemenis survive on one meal a day. Last year 53 percent of Yemen's population were food insecure. This year it's 63 percent -- or some 19 million people. Aid actors have been forced to cut food assistance due to a lack of funds. Some 5 million people will now receive less than 50 percent of their daily nutritional requirement because of it.

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