18 October 2011


Speaking in Geneva recently, the Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Magdalena Sepúlveda, called on States to address without delay the growing inequalities between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots.’ "In several countries," she warned, "disparities created by the crisis have been exacerbated by austerity measures put in place to facilitate recovery." 

"These rising inequalities have diminished social cohesion and increased insecurity and exclusion throughout the world,"
the Special Rapporteur said on the occasion of the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. "Should these inequalities persevere, the result could be increasing social unrest and conflict, such as that seen over recent months. While States are going ‘back to business’ on the presumption of a ‘post crisis’ recovery, the financial and economic crises are still very much in full swing for those living in poverty," Ms. Sepúlveda said.

"At the current rate, it will take more than 800 years for the bottom billion of the world population to achieve 10 per cent of global income." 

According to the United Nations expert, it is now clear that the poorest and most excluded bore the brunt of the crises, while the incomes of the richest segments of society continue to soar in many of the countries most affected by the crises. 

For example, in the United States, the poor continue to grow in number, with six million people falling into poverty since 2008 and one in seven Americans now living below the poverty line, more than at any time in the past 50 years.

"The twisted irony is that those who have benefited most from past economic growth and development have been those who were already better off, and those who have suffered the harshest effects of the cumulative crises have been the poorest and the marginalized in all societies, including single-parent families, older persons, ethnic minorities, persons with disabilities and migrants" the poverty expert noted. 

"Recovery measures must look beyond growth. The September 2010 Millennium Development Goals Summit outcome gave renewed emphasis to the goal of sustainable, inclusive and equitable growth" stressed Ms. Sepúlveda. "What is required are recovery measures that are equitable, accompanied by human rights safeguards and designed from the ground up, taking into consideration the specific needs of vulnerable populations." 

States may benefit from the experience of the few countries that have narrowed the gap between the incomes of the poorest and wealthiest groups over the last decade.

"Progressive taxation, social protection programmes and minimum wage legislation have all been proven effective in alleviating poverty while tackling inequalities" the Special Rapporteur recalled.


This week in Australia is designated as Anti-Poverty Week which aims to strengthen public understanding of the causes and consequences of poverty and hardship around the world and in Australia and encourage research, discussion and action to address these problems, including action by individuals, communities, organisations and governments.

More than one million Australians live in poverty whilst globally more than a billion people are desperately poor.

Micah Challenge is a global campaign of Christians speaking out against poverty and injustice. The challenge is how to achieve the Millennium Development Goal of halving global poverty by 2015.

Meanwhile the Chief Executive Officer of the St Vincent de Paul Society in Australia, Dr John Falzon, has outlined three concrete steps for Government to take towards creating an inclusive Australia:

“Firstly, Real respect for the First Peoples of Australia cannot be reconciled with disempowerment. Compulsory income management, for example, continues to demean and discriminate. Extending this paternalistic policy to non-Aboriginal social security recipients does not remove the stigma. We now have class-discrimination in addition to racial discrimination. In the words of Central Arrernte woman Elaine Peckham: BasicsCards are no substitute for Basic Rights.

“Secondly, we restate our urgent call to free children from immigration detention arrangements and to ensure their access to education. These children are suffering unjustly. This is something the Government acknowledged in 2008.

“Thirdly, we invite political leaders to abandon the tired myth of an undeserving poor. Income Support payments must be lifted to a level of adequacy for all, not just for some. The goal of employment can be achieved through investment in education, training, childcare, transport, health and housing rather than through the denial of the necessities of life.”


Tax dodging by multi-national corporations costs developing countries hundreds of billions of dollars every year, 1% of the population in the US controls 35% of the wealth, obscene salaries and bonuses are paid to corporate executives and yet even as protests about corporate power, greed and corruption gain momentum around the world, an article in the Huffington Post reveals that members of the US Congress are proposing a repatriation tax holiday - a huge, temporary reduction in the tax rate on the estimated $1 trillion that could be brought back to the US from offshore tax havens, in order to stimulate the economy and create jobs.

Critics of the scheme argue that a similar scheme offered in 2004 failed, with the companies taking advantage of the holiday ending up laying off thousands of workers and spending most of the money they brought back from abroad buying back stock and otherwise enriching their top executives and major stockholders.

With the United States' biggest companies already sitting on some $2 trillion in domestically held cash and liquid assets that they refuse to spend on job-creating measures in any case, critics further argue that the proposal provides further evidence that government and business leaders are deaf to the message being sent out by protesters such as ‘Occupy Wall St’.

Meanwhile Christian Aid has released a new video for the End Tax Haven Secrecy campaign. It can be viewed at the Task Force on Financial Integrity and Economic Development website.

You are also invited to visit the End Tax Haven Secrecy website and sign the petition demanding tax justice at the G20 summit in France in November 2011.

On a related issue, the proposal to put a tiny 0.05% tax on financial institutions would raise hundreds of billions of dollars every year to help tackle poverty and climate change has been supported by 1,000 of the world’s leading economists. 

The so-called ‘Robin Hood Tax’ has also gained the support of people like billionaire Bill Gates, European President Jose Manuel Barroso and the European Commission. However Australia was one of the few countries that wasn’t prepared to discuss a Robin Hood Tax when world leaders met in Canada last year for the G20.

Oxfam Australia has an online letter-writing campaign asking that Australia support a Robin Hood Tax at the upcoming G20 meeting.


"All prolonged mandatory detention of those fleeing persecution is catastrophic for detainees, violates human rights, and demeans those who inflict and have oversight of the system" said Archbishop Tomasi, the Permanent Representative of the Holy See (Vatican) to the United Nations and Other International Organizations in Geneva, in an address to the Human Rights Council earlier this month.

The statement lamented the erosion of the noble aims of the 1951 Refugee Convention “to assure refugees the widest possible exercise of their fundamental rights and freedoms” and called for the plight of the estimated 43 million refugees, asylum seekers and other forcibly displaced persons in the world today to be addressed.

Archbishop Tomasi pointed out that "Public opinion and political expediency have impacted the need for protection of asylum-seekers in a negative way" and criticised the treatment of asylum seekers, especially children, as if they were criminal prisoners. He urged the development of alternatives to detention and for the introduction of practical measures to help refugees adapt to their new environment and to prevent their exploitation.

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