Human Rights Defender Issue 21-2 available at UNSW Bookshop

The latest copy of the Human Rights Defender, focusing on poverty and human rights, is now available at the UNSW Bookshop for $5.


Human rights and poverty are inextricably related. Much of the current massive under-fulfilment of human rights can be linked to poverty.1 Poverty is often a significant barrier to the fulfilment of human rights, particularly social and economic rights, such as the right to an adequate standard of living, including access to food, clothing, housing and medical care.

The importance of indivisibility of civil and political rights (such as the right to equality and participation) and social and economic rights was well articulated by former South African President Nelson Mandela (in considering the rights to be enshrined in the South African Constitution) when he stated that ‘[w]e must address the issues of poverty, want, deprivation and inequality in accordance with international standards which recognise the indivisibility of human rights. The right to vote, without food, shelter and health care will create the appearance of equality and justice, while actual inequality is entrenched. We do not want freedom without bread, nor do we want bread without freedom.’

The impact of poverty on the recognition of all human rights is the underlying theme of this issue of the Human Rights Defender.

This issue features a travel blog and a diverse collection of articles and interviews that explore different components of the relationship between poverty and human rights at local national and international levels.

Peter Whiteford provides an overview of the widespread impacts of poverty and investigates why Australia’s rising national prosperity has not been equally shared by those people receiving unemployment payments. The improvement of human rights generally requires structural policy changes to ensure that the rights of the most vulnerable are adequately protected. Beth Goldblatt continues with the theme of examining policy and structural challenges that impede human rights realisation and focuses, in particular, on the gendered nature of poverty. Goldblatt highlights the continued inequality and discrimination faced by women in economic, social and political spheres and proposes that the right to social security can and should play a central role in addressing poverty globally by directly assisting women in need.
Jennie Orchard picks up on the gendered nature of poverty and notes that ‘education empowers women, giving them the potential to understand their rights, to take leadership, to contribute to the political, social, environmental and economic betterment of their communities, their countries.’

Margot Young considers the right to health in the context of the constitutional rights of injection drug users in Canada to access supervised safe injection sites. Young presents the legal tale of a case that marks an important political and social victory that intersects the law and politics in the struggle for justice and equality.

Natasha Shanthakumar argues that extreme poverty plays a significant role in forcing people to become refugees. This article focuses on the difficulties refugees face in displacing adverse security assessments made against them by the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO).

Caroline Fleay draws attention to the ongoing civil and political rights violations in China. While China’s rapid growth has lifted millions of people out of poverty, political reforms, in particular the safeguard of human rights, has not kept pace with economic advances. Fleay questions how human rights are defined in China and in particular, whose voices should be heard. Fleay analyses the portrayal of human rights violations in China as a result of the decisions made by transnational activists such as Amnesty International.

An extract from Andrew Leigh MP’s speech about Jemma Purdey’s biography on Herb Faith honours Australia’s first international volunteer. Herb Faith was a champion of human rights causes and fought for justice, liberty and equality in the face of poverty. Lucia Noyce’s travel blog follows her recent journey across Australia with the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women. Her inspiring journey investigates violence against women throughout Australia with a particular focus on indigenous communities. The interview in this issue features Dr Cassandra Goldie, CEO of the Australian Council of Social Services, interviewed by Amy Zhang. The interview showcases Dr Goldie’s extensive experience in human rights work within the community sector and highlights the significance of building public understanding about the nature of poverty in Australia.

Justine Nolan and Joy Goh

1T. Pogge, ‘Poverty and Human Rights’ 2008, viewed online on 9 July 2012