GENEVA – “Participation is a fundamental human right, not a simple policy option that policymakers can choose not to implement,” United Nations Special Rapporteur Magdalena Sepúlveda said today, presenting her annual report* to the Human Rights Council.
The independent expert on extreme poverty and human rights urged world governments to enable persons living in poverty to participate in decisions that affect their lives. “States must make sustained and proactive efforts to ensure that the voices of people living in poverty can be heard in public debate and policy making,” she stressed.
“The right to participation is strongly linked with empowerment, which is a key human rights goal and principle. Effective participation can build capacity and rights awareness,” Ms. Sepúlveda said. “It allows those living in poverty to see themselves as full members of society and autonomous agents rather than subjects of decisions taken by others who see them as objects of assistance or mere statistics.”
When making policy, deciding on new laws or drawing up budgets, the human rights expert underlined, “States have a legal obligation to implement inclusive, and non-discriminatory participatory processes, and to engage constructively with the outcomes.”
The Special Rapporteur noted that participation should be undertaken “not as a formulaic bureaucratic exercise, but rather as an empowering process based on human rights.” In her view, meaningful participation can build skills, knowledge, and confidence, and play an important role in breaking down entrenched inequality and hierarchies.
“Participation provides an opportunity for people living in poverty to be active agents in their own destiny; a chance to speak out against and challenge injustice, discrimination and stigma,” Ms. Sepúlveda said.
The report outlines the practical actions States must take to support and enable meaningful, active participation for people living in poverty, dictated by human rights law, norms and principles such as non-discrimination and equality, accountability and access to information.
“Full enjoyment of the right to participation by the most disadvantaged members of society is necessary to break the cycle of material deprivation and disempowerment,” the rights expert underscored.
“Ultimately, this will benefit society as a whole, building trust, solidarity and social cohesion, and bringing new issues and voices into the public arena,” Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights said.
(*) See the full report:
Magdalena Sepúlveda (Chile) was appointed the Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights in May 2008 by the United Nations Human Rights Council. She has extensive experience in economic, social and cultural rights and holds a PhD in international human rights law from Utrecht University. She is independent from any government or organization and serves in her individual capacity. Learn more, visit: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Poverty/Pages/SRExtremePovertyIndex.aspxCheck the Special Rapporteur’s “Guiding Principles on Human Rights and Extreme Poverty” (in Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish): http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Poverty/Pages/AnnualReports.aspx
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