Phillip Alston, human rights lawyer and special rapporteur, releases his statement on "extreme poverty and human rights" in the United States.


Photo Credit: Clipped from NYU Law Faculty site video.

Professor Phillip Alston, an international legal scholar at New York University and UN envoy, has released a statement detailing America's increasing wealth/income inequality.

Alston spent two weeks traveling throughout the United States and Puerto Rico, speaking with populations in cities with great poverty, elected officials, activists, and law enforcement about the epidemic of poverty.

You can read the full statement on the UN's Office of the High Commissioner website here. Below is a selection of quotes we found pertinent in his statement, along with further reporting around it.


“What is known, from long experience and in light of the government’s human rights obligations, is that there are indispensable ingredients for a set of policies designed to eliminate poverty. They include: democratic decision-making, full employment policies, social protection for the vulnerable, a fair and effective justice system, gender and racial equality and respect for human dignity, responsible fiscal policies, and environmental justice. Currently, the United States falls far short on each of these issues.”

“Successive administrations, including the present one, have determinedly rejected the idea that economic and social rights are full-fledged human rights, despite their clear recognition not only in key treaties that the US has ratified (such as the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination), and in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which the US has long insisted other countries must respect.”

“There is no magic recipe for eliminating extreme poverty, and each level of government must make its own good faith decisions. But at the end of the day, particularly in a rich country like the USA, the persistence of extreme poverty is a political choice made by those in power. With political will, it could readily be eliminated.”


The Guardian: "A journey through a land of extreme poverty: welcome to America"

KTLA:  "L.A. Lags Behind Other Cities in Battling Homelessness, U.N. Monitor on Extreme Poverty Says"

AL.Com:  "UN poverty official touring Alabama's Black Belt: 'I haven't seen this' in the First World"

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  • David Ruderman
    Terrific article — way more important IMO than email scandals, etc. — the most egregious attacks on working and poor people happen right out in the open…great reporting Josh!