The Despouy Report on Human Rights and Extreme Poverty/Annex III

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Annex III A definition of extreme poverty[edit]

"The lack of basic security connotes the absence of one or more factors enabling individuals and families to assume basic responsibilities and to enjoy fundamental rights. The situation may become widespread and result in more serious and permanent consequences. The lack of basic security leads to chronic poverty when it simultaneously affects several aspects of people’s lives, when it is prolonged and when it severely compromises people’s chances of regaining their rights and of reassuming their responsibilities in the foreseeable future."

This definition is doubly innovative because it defines poverty in terms of rights and responsibilities and it was drafted in association with all the social partners of a country and in consultation with very poor families and individuals.

Moreover, it underscores both the similarity and the difference between situations of poverty (first part of the definition) and extreme poverty (second part of the definition): both appear to be due to similar phenomena, varying essentially in number, extent and duration. It also shows that the demarcation line between poverty and extreme poverty, although very real, may be fluid.

The persistence of multiple insecurity over a long period, sometimes several generations, appears to contribute to the decline from a situation of poverty into one of extreme poverty.

By focusing on the fact that extreme poverty is due to a combination of underlying factors of insecurity, this definition places us in the area of the indivisibility and the interdependence of human rights. (Definition proposed by Father Joseph Wresinski, in the report entitled "Grande pauvreté et précarité économique et sociale", adopted by the French Economic and Social Council (Journal officiel, "Avis et rapport du CES", p. 25) which was first submitted for consideration by the Sub Commission’s experts in the preliminary report on the realization of economic, social and cultural rights by Mr. Danilo Türk (E/CN.4/Sub.2/1989/19).)