UN human rights expert to visit UK to assess poverty

By agency reporter
November 2, 2018

The UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Philip Alston, will undertake a human rights fact-finding visit to the United Kingdom from 5 to 16 November 2018 to investigate Government efforts to eradicate poverty.

“The United Kingdom is one of the richest countries in the world, but millions of people are still living in poverty there,” said Alston, designated by the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva to monitor, report and advise on extreme poverty and its intersection with human rights. “I have received hundreds of submissions that make clear many people are really struggling to make ends meet.”

During his two-week visit, the Special Rapporteur will travel to England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales, and visit Belfast, Bristol, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Essex, Glasgow, Jaywick, London, and Newcastle. He will meet with Government officials, including at the devolved and local level, to discuss efforts to eradicate poverty. He will also meet with individuals affected by poverty to hear about their experiences and with civil society organisations working on poverty and human rights, academics, and national human rights institutions.

Some of the topics that the Special Rapporteur will address during his visit include the rollout of Universal Credit, child poverty, and the implications of Brexit on poverty. He will examine the effects of austerity measures, including changes to benefits and to local government funding. The Special Rapporteur will also look at the impact of an increasingly digital government on the most vulnerable. This includes making access to benefits such as Universal Credit ‘digital by default’ and the use of automation within the benefits system, aided by new technologies like artificial intelligence.

“Poverty is intertwined with human rights standards that the United Kingdom has ratified, including the right to food, housing, and an adequate standard of living and it affects access to civil and political rights”, the Special Rapporteur said. “The Government has made significant changes to social protection in the past decade, and I will be looking closely at the impact that has had on people living in poverty and their realisation of basic rights.”

The Special Rapporteur will share his preliminary observations and recommendations at a news conference to be held at the end of his mission on 16 November 2018 at 12pm at the International Maritime Organisation in London (4, Albert Embankment, London, SE1 7SR). His final report will be presented to the Human Rights Council in Geneva in June 2019.

Ahead of the visit, the Special Rapporteur has received almost 300 submissions from people affected by poverty, civil society, government officials, academics, and human rights institutes. This is by far the most submissions the Special Rapporteur has received before a country visit, and those made public with the authors’ consent are available here.

* Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights https://www.ohchr.org/EN/Pages/Home.aspx

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