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“IMPROVE ACCESS TO JUSTICE FOR THE POOR” UNITED NATIONS EXPERT TELLS WORLD GOVERNMENTS
3 September 2012

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty, Magdalena Sepúlveda, urged States to commit themselves to improve access to justice for the poor at the forthcoming international high-level meeting on rule of law, to be held at the United Nations General Assembly on 24 September.

“The rule of law is meaningless for people living in poverty without effective access to justice, which is a human right in itself, and essential for tackling poverty,” Ms. Sepúlveda said. 

In a special proposal* to States, the human rights expert welcomed the inclusion of a specific section on access to justice in the outcome document currently being negotiated by States, and made recommendations to strengthen its content before the document is adopted by the General Assembly. 

In addition, the Special Rapporteur called on States “to ensure that poverty is never a barrier to enjoying the benefits of the rule of law”, by making forward-looking, specific pledges to improve access to justice by the poorest and most marginalised members of society.

“Concrete actions must be taken to ensure that all individuals are empowered to claim their rights, demand effective remedies and accountability,” she highlighted.  “Without this, we are left with a two-tier rule of law: a reality for the privileged, but only rhetorical for the poor and excluded.”

Ms. Sepúlveda noted that, by making concrete pledges to improve access to justice by the poorest in their societies, States would show their commitment to improve the enjoyment of all human rights by persons living in poverty, and the high-level meeting “would be a platform to turn our vision for more inclusive and equitable societies into reality.”

The Special Rapporteur’s 2012 report to the General Assembly, to be presented in October, examines the obstacles that persons living in poverty face in accessing justice.


(*) Check the Special Rapporteur’s recommendations to world governments:  http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Issues/Poverty/SubmissionRuleOfLaw.pdf

Magdalena Sepúlveda was appointed as the Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights in May 2008 by the United Nations Human Rights Council. She is independent from any government or organization. Learn more, visit:  http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Poverty/Pages/SRExtremePovertyIndex.aspx

In October 2011, Ms. Sepúlveda presented a report to the UN General Assembly on the penalization of people living in poverty:
http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Poverty/Pages/AnnualReports.aspx

For inquiries and media requests, please contact Lidia Rabinovich (+ 41 22 917 9763 / lrabinovich@ohchr.org or write to srextremepoverty@ohchr.org.

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)  

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For use of the information media; not an official record

HR12/211E