Improving access to justice for the poor, key element for the rule of law, UN expert tells world governments

Geneva: The United Nations Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty, Magdalena Sep?lveda, urged States to commit themselves to improve access to justice for the poor at the forthcoming international high-level meeting on rule of law, to be held at the UN General Assembly on 24 September.

“The rule of law is meaningless for people living in poverty without effective access to justice, which is a human right in itself, and essential for tackling poverty,” Ms. Sep?lveda said.

In a special proposal to States, the human rights expert welcomed the inclusion of a specific section on access to justice in the outcome document currently being negotiated by States, and made recommendations to strengthen its content before the document is adopted by the General Assembly.

In addition, the Special Rapporteur called on States “to ensure that poverty is never a barrier to enjoying the benefits of the rule of law”, by making forward-looking, specific pledges to improve access to justice by the poorest and most marginalised members of society.

“Concrete actions must be taken to ensure that all individuals are empowered to claim their rights, demand effective remedies and accountability,” she highlighted. “Without this, we are left with a two-tier rule of law: a reality for the privileged, but only rhetorical for the poor and excluded.” Ms. Sep?lveda noted that, by making concrete pledges to improve access to justice by the poorest in their societies, States would show their commitment to improve the enjoyment of all human rights by persons living in poverty, and the high-level meeting “would be a platform to turn our vision for more inclusive and equitable societies into reality.” The Special Rapporteur’s 2012 report to the General Assembly, to be presented in October, examines the obstacles that persons living in poverty face in accessing justice.