RSN Fundraising Banner
FB Share
Email This Page
add comment

writing for godot

In a country well governed, poverty is something to be ashamed of; in a country badly governed, wealth is something to be ashamed of. (Confucius)

Written by   
Saturday, 16 January 2021 14:48

Human rights: Food for a thought most do not buy  ‘HR and disparity reduction’


Human Rights Reader 560


[TLDR (too long didn’t read): This Reader is about the fake promises of the war on poverty in the face of the global poverty pandemic and why handouts will not do to address poverty’s human rights implications. For a quick overview, just read the bolded text].


-As civil governments have for an objective securing property, they are elected actually to defend the rich against the poor, or said otherwise, defend those that have property against those that have none. (Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations, 1776)


Maybe money cannot buy happiness, but poverty cannot buy anything (attached to a refrigerator door, courtesy of Mary Anne Mercer)


-The ‘war on poverty’ touted by the rich may be a crowd pleaser politically, but were it a real war, it would be considered a defeat worse than Vietnam. (Susan George)


  1. There is a mambo-jambo in the poverty terminology. Look at my take:
  • ‘the poor’* terribly depersonalizes;
  • ‘people who live in poverty’ takes a bit of the depersonalization away;
  • ‘the haves and have-nots’ ignores the ‘have-less’s’;
  • ‘people that happen to be poor’ is better, but points towards a chance or bad luck.
  • As you by now know, I vote for people who are rendered poor/vulnerable/ marginal’**. (Note I also do not speak of vulnerable groups; I use ‘vulnerated groups’).

*: It has almost become fashionable to honor ‘the poor’. (E.L. Doctorow, Ragtime) They somehow often are looked at as being part of the local folklore; tourists stop by their neighborhoods.

**: Of course, there are also ‘countries rendered poor’. These countries are hit by higher priced industrial goods and erratic commodity prices; they thus accumulate debt. Invariably, the complex economic issue of debt translates into chronic trade deficit positions and, elemental Watson, more poverty and human rights (HR) violations.


2. Why do I use the rendered poor? Because this much better contextualizes poverty as a human rights (HR) violation, i.e., as being an outcome of processes of exploitation, of domination and of processes that keep existing power imbalances. So, this immediately leads to the absolutely central question: Why do some people live/are kept in poverty? [As a corollary, you also know I (together with many) am of the opinion that poverty reduction can only be brought about through ‘disparity reduction’].


Sounds familiar?


3. In a vicious circle in which those rendered rich inevitably get richer and those already rendered poor get nowhere, land use and land speculation by the wealthy is progressively leaving nowhere for the deprived to live. Forced to set up housekeeping in illegal shanties on the city periphery they are not provided with the most basic public services. Those with economic and political clout are first in line for services like clean running water and health. Public funds are invested in roads for the cars of the rich and universities for their offspring. For most cities, public housing projects are not the answer. Instead, simply laying out housing tracts, allotting parcels, erecting simple shelters and paving some inner-city roads are the inexpensive preliminary needed steps. Not only can those rendered poor in many cases afford the public services denied them --they are already paying many times more for the inefficient and makeshift services they do have available. Transport costs from the slums to inner city jobs are often prohibitive, and sometimes people have to pay ten times as much for water carried-in on private trucks than the more affluent pay for piped public potable water. All too often also, the response is either to ignore the problems of the future or hope that somehow these problems will go away; in either case, the result is neglect, a neglect that, if continued, will threaten the social fabric of societies in the not too distant future. (Karen de Young)


The other pandemic that benefits those rendered rich: The pandemic of poverty!


4. The rich/poor gap has existed for a loooong time, but there have been moments when both those rendered rich and rendered poor saw hope that the gap could be diminished if not closed. Instead, since at least the beginning of the century, it has grown steadily wider.


5. Proof ? The world’s people living in extreme poverty purportedly(!) fell from 36 percent in 1990 to 10 percent in 2015. But this level of decline is ‘scandalously unambitious’. One cannot ‘escape’ from poverty without an income anywhere near that required to achieve an adequate standard of living, including access to healthcare and education --all HR entitlements. The World Bank --one of the leading imposers of economic misery rendering the poor poor-- rejected its own Commission on Global Poverty’s recommendation that it adopt a basic needs-based estimate, instead of the one it then used. Moving off the WB poverty line, the image of a world getting better and better dissolves in air. If we look at the last twenty-five-year period, raising it to a mere $5.50/person/day means the head count of people in poverty falls only pitifully. Furthermore, the coronavirus pandemic has erased all purported poverty alleviation progress had over the three years before it hit. …And climate change, which almost all of the world’s governments are taking lightly or ignoring, will make a mockery of the World Bank’s already discouraging projections for the next decade. (Philip Alston, Branko Marcetic) Wither disparity reduction…


6. Having an unrealistic view of our progress in the fight against poverty has had deplorable consequences. To pre-set the interests of the rich as the best way to alleviate poverty*** has radically changed the prevailing social contract redefining the public good as the one that helps rendering the rich even richer. This is the optimistic picture the highly publicized indicators used by the World Bank paint; the latter have only bred complacency. Billions of people face a world of unavailable opportunities and of preventable deaths --too poor to enjoy their inalienable HR. As said, COVID has done nothing but exacerbate the poverty pandemic that comes from way before. To repeat: We live in a world where laws and economic policies are conceived to create and keep the wealth of the powerful --not to do away with poverty. This is a political choice being made! The poverty pandemic will outlast the COVID one as long as governments do not take people’s right to have a decent standard of living seriously. For this to happen, governments must stop hiding behind the miserable subsistence poverty line set by the World Bank and must abandon the triumphalism thrown around about the imminent end of poverty.**** (P. Alston) We all must denounce this.

***: An equitable growth strategy has been shown to be more effective in alleviating poverty than all tried ‘comprehensive’ poverty alleviation programs. (Michael Latham and Micheline Beaudry)

****: For those rendered poor, children are like lottery tickets: one of them may succeed in life and change the status of the whole family. (S. George)

Needy people should get a hand up, not a handout


7. People ought to live in economic systems that ensure, not only their health, education, housing and nutrition, but also their HR and their dignity. As the duty bearer, any government’s primary task is to make sure that people live in circumstances in which they can provide for themselves --and claim holders have to demand this(!), if not, who? Human rights apply to every individual, all the time, even during disruptions or any kind of disaster. The moral imperative is clear, even if the law is not. (George Kent)


Claudio Schuftan, Ho Chi Minh City

Your comments are welcome at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

All Readers are available at


Postscript Marginalia

-I am often asked the question: How can the masses permit themselves to be exploited by the few? The answer is: By being persuaded to identify with them. Carrying the newspaper under his arm, the laborer goes home to his wife, an exhausted workhorse with the veins standing out in her legs, and he dreams not of justice but of being rich. (Emma Goldman)

-“What the heck, when I die, politicians will continue to distribute among themselves the booties as they have always done. You will see, they will again distribute everything among the priests, the gringos and the rich --and nothing for the poor, of course, because the poor will continue to be screwed until shit has some value”. (Gabriel García Márquez, El Otoño del Patriarca) your social media marketing partner
Email This Page


THE NEW STREAMLINED RSN LOGIN PROCESS: Register once, then login and you are ready to comment. All you need is a Username and a Password of your choosing and you are free to comment whenever you like! Welcome to the Reader Supported News community.