Amnesty International Warns United Nations' Poverty Summit that Goals Fail to Uphold Rights of Poor People

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Suzanne Trimel, 212-633-4150, strimel@aiusa.org

Amnesty International Warns United Nations' Poverty Summit that Goals Fail to Uphold Rights of Poor People

Summit Produces No Effective Way to Hold Governments Accountability for Achieving Commitments to Reduce Poverty

NEW YORK - Amnesty International warned today that the plan of action on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) agreed by world leaders at the United Nations fails to uphold the rights of the world's poorest.

And despite much rhetoric on the importance of accountability, the U.N. summit of world governments failed to identify an effective way to hold governments to account for achieving their MDG commitments or for ensuring that their MDG efforts are consistent with their human rights obligations.

"In effect, world leaders are asking us to trust them, an incredible demand when we see the gap between what they are required to do and what they have delivered." said Salil Shetty, Amnesty International's Secretary General.

Despite overwhelming evidence that millions are being left out of the MDGs because discrimination and other human rights violations prevent them from accessing basic services, world leaders failed to seize the opportunity to put human rights at the heart of the MDGs, during the U.N. summit in New York this week.

"With only five years to go, it is completely unacceptable that world leaders have still not agreed to take concrete action to address discrimination and other human rights violations, which prevent the MDGs from benefiting those who need them most," said Shetty.

"Although the plan of action includes language recognizing that ‘the respect for and promotion and protection of human rights is an integral part of effective work towards achieving' the MDGs, there is no follow-through in terms of commitment to take any tangible action."

The MDG target on slums has ignored more than a billion people for the past ten years, as it only commits to improving the lives of 10 per cent of slum dwellers. Yet the action plan does not address this serious and growing challenge. Despite evidence that mass forced evictions are driving people further into poverty and thereby undermining all MDGs, there is no call on governments to end this practice. The plan talks instead of ‘reducing slum populations', despite concerns that this could encourage more forced evictions.

The Summit did not address the root causes for lack of progress on achieving the MDGs. For example, the issue of unsafe abortion was ignored, despite it being a leading cause of maternal deaths and therefore a serious threat to reaching the MDG target on maternal mortality.

Although the plan of action includes a welcome emphasis on combating gender discrimination, it does not identify what governments should do to address discrimination and barriers faced by many other groups - including minorities, people with disabilities and Indigenous Peoples.

"Governments are bound by international human rights law to uphold everyone's rights to food, health, housing and water. Yet they spent precious time in negotiations fighting over whether human rights obligations they signed up to more than 40 years ago should even be referenced in the plan of action," said Shetty.

"If the MDGs are to achieve real change, world leaders must bring their national policies and practises in line with their obligation to respect and promote human rights," said Shetty an expert on poverty and human rights who lead Amnesty International's delegation to the Summit.

"The Summit has failed to specify clear and binding accountability mechanisms. But world leaders can still take action - and ensure that the MDGs do not fail the world's poorest people," said Salil Shetty. "The way forward now lies with individual governments setting national targets to realise economic, social and cultural rights. They must also act to end discrimination and ensure people living in poverty can participate in MDG efforts and hold governments to account through courts and regulatory bodies."

Press Conference Wednesday 22 September

Amnesty International will be participating in a press conference in New York, by members of the Global Call to Action against Poverty on Wednesday, September, 22 at 1:15 p.m.

Civil society leaders will give their reaction to the MDG Summit.

UN Church Center, 777 UN Plaza, 44th Street at 1st Avenue, New York

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We are people from across the world standing up for humanity and human rights. Our purpose is to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied. We investigate and expose abuses, educate and mobilize the public, and help transform societies to create a safer, more just world.

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