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Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights

Purpose of the mandate

For those living in extreme poverty, many human rights are out of reach. This mandate was created to:

  • Give greater prominence to the plight of those living in extreme poverty
  • Highlight the human rights consequences of the systematic neglect to which they are subjected.

Learn more about why extreme poverty is an urgent human rights issue.

About the mandate

The United Nations Commission on Human Rights first established the mandate on extreme poverty in 1998. It was taken over by the Human Rights Council, which replaced the Commission, in June 2006. Through its resolutions 8/11 and 35/19, the Human Rights Council requests the Special Rapporteur to examine and report back to member States on initiatives taken to promote and protect the rights of those living in extreme poverty, with a view to advancing the eradication of such poverty.

Learn more about the mandate

Current mandate holder

Professor Olivier De Schutter (Belgium) was appointed the UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights by the Human Rights Council at its 43rd session, in March 2020. A Professor of Law at UCLouvain and at SciencesPo (Paris), Mr. De Schutter was the Special Rapporteur on the right to food from 2008 to 2014, and a member of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights between 2015 and 2020. Prior to those appointments, he was Secretary-General of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH). Read Professor De Schutter’s full biography and CV.

Key documents

The Guiding Principles on extreme poverty and human rights

The Human Rights Council adopted the Guiding Principles at its 21st session in September 2012. These were the first global policy guidelines focusing specifically on the human rights of people living in poverty. They are intended as a practical tool for policy-makers to ensure that public policies and poverty eradication efforts reach the poorest members of society, respect and uphold their rights, and take into account the social, cultural, economic and structural obstacles to human rights enjoyment faced by persons living in poverty. Read more

Latest thematic reports

Looking back to look ahead: A rights-based approach to social protection in the post-COVID-19 economic recovery: The Special Rapporteur’s report, issued in September 2020 in response to Human Rights Council resolution 44/13, analyzes social protection measures adopted around the world in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. It finds that many of them are short-term, temporary and inadequate, and calls for building social protection systems on the basis of human rights. View report page

The parlous state of poverty eradication: This report, presented to the Human Rights Council in July 2020, examines the World Bank’s flawed measure of extreme poverty and the international community’s principal policy response to poverty, through the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The Special Rapporteur argues for adapting international poverty measurement and recalibrating the SDGs. View report page | View document A/HRC/44/40 (advance unedited version)

The digital welfare state and human rights: The Special Rapporteur's latest report, issued in October 2019, explores the human rights implications of digital technologies. He calls for regulation and transparency to ensure compliance with human rights. View report page | View document A/74/493

Climate change and poverty: The Special Rapporteur presented his thematic report to the Human Rights Council at its 41st session in July 2019. In it, he examines how climate change will have devastating consequences for people in poverty. It threatens the future of human rights and risks undoing the last 50 years of progress in development, global health and poverty reduction. View report page | View document A/HRC/41/39

Latest country reports

Mission to Spain (27 January to 7 February 2020)
View report page | View document A/HRC/44/40/Add.2

Mission to Malaysia (13 to 23 August 2019)
View report page | View document A/HRC/44/40/Add.1

Mission to Lao People's Democratic Republic (18 to 28 March 2019)
View report page | View document A/HRC/41/39/Add.2



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