United Nations Press Release

Commission on Human Rights
57th session
3 April 2001

Commission on Human Rights Hears Pleas for Debt Relief,
Action to End Extreme Poverty

Non-governmental organizations speaking before the Commission on Human Rights this evening pressed such issues as debt relief for poor nations, rural land reform, and greater efforts to reduce extreme poverty as they commented on the status of economic, social and cultural rights around the world.

The International Movement ATD Fourth World said extreme poverty amounted to a violation of all human rights and contended that there was a need for a new definition of poverty, as existing standards did not refer directly to extreme poverty and were too general in nature to take extreme conditions into account.

The World Federation of United Nations Associations said 50 per cent of the 600 million people living in sub-Saharan Africa survived on 65 cents a day and had sub-standard educational, sanitary and health services.

And Pax Christi International urged the Commission to call for the cancellation of the foreign debt of the world’s most-indebted countries and for consideration of a new approach aimed at modifying completely the framework of “structural adjustment” programmes and at including genuine consultations with civil

SANJEEWA LIYANAGE, of Asian Legal Resource Centre, said ample evidence suggested that the Government of Myanmar was systematically denying food to its civilian population. The ALRC had brought these concerns to the attention of the Commission last year in light of a finding made by the People’s Tribunal on Food Scarcity and Militarization in Burma. The ALRC appreciated the efforts of the former Special Rapporteur to highlight food security concerns in Myanmar and hoped that the new Special Rapporteur would pursue the issue with equal vigor. Myanmar continued to violate the right to food by denying people the right to work, as well as through harmful taxation and the confiscation of land. Also, there was the repeated demand for unpaid civilian labour which prevented people from working freely to achieve food security. In areas of armed conflict, civilians were subjected to unstable, life-threatening conditions.

The right to food was universal and fundamental. The international community and particularly UN agencies must recognize the emerging human-made food-security crisis in Myanmar.


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The Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC) works towards the radical rethinking & fundamental redesigning of justice institutions in Asia, to ensure relief and redress for victims of human rights violations, as per Common Article 2 of the International Conventions. Sister organisation to the Asian Human Rights Commission, the ALRC is based in Hong Kong & holds general consultative status with the Economic & Social Council of the United Nations.

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