The Unheard Truth

Amnesty International
15 October 2009

The Unheard Truth: World leaders must change
debate on poverty and human rights

In the run-up to the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty on 17 October, Amnesty International called on world leaders and policy makers to shift the debate on poverty from economics to addressing the human rights problems that impoverish and keep people poor.

Amnesty International’s Secretary General Irene Khan stated: “Poverty is the world’s worst human rights crisis.

“Discrimination, state repression, corruption, insecurity and violence are as much defining features of poverty as the lack of material resources. These human rights problems can’t simply be solved by raising income levels,” said Irene Khan.

“Material benefits alone do not guarantee an end to discrimination, or improve security or give voice to those living in poverty. Investment in agriculture may boost crop yields for poor farmers but does not guarantee security of tenure against unscrupulous land owners. Building new schools doesn’t guarantee that girls will have the same access to education as boys.

“In many countries economic growth levels may be high but people’s right to be informed and consulted in public policy is ignored; their right to express their views and be heard is curtailed. The poor are shut out and ignored.

“Any successful poverty alleviation strategy must empower the poor to claim their rights, so that they can control their destiny and can hold decision makers to account.”

Launching her book The Unheard Truth: Poverty and Human Rights in New York, Irene Khan argued that eradication of poverty requires respect of economic, social and cultural rights – such as health care, education and housing – alongside civil and political rights.

“There can be no sequenced or partial approach to human rights if we want to solve poverty. Demanding participation rights is as important as directing resources to meet basic needs for food, health and shelter. Protecting people against violence is as crucial as ending discrimination. Reducing maternal mortality calls for better health care but also for the improvement of the status of women.”

With ten chapters addressing topics such as why freedom matters, discrimination, the poverty trap, maternal mortality, slums, corporate accountability and legal empowerment, The Unheard Truth calls for justice and empowerment for the world’s poor and puts a human face to a problem that is all too often illustrated by abstract statistics.

The Unheard Truth marks a new phase in Amnesty International’s worldwide campaign to Demand Dignity in which world leaders will be targeted and challenged to address human rights abuses that drive and deepen poverty.

“The fight to end poverty is this generation’s greatest struggle. We will win it if we put freedom, justice and equality at its core,” said Irene Khan.

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