In the fight against austerity, human rights is not the answer

Mickey Keller - 15 December 2018

Amber Rudd’s rejection of the UN inquiry into poverty in the UK reveals what’s wrong with the discussion around austerity and human rights.

Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd has used her first appearance following her return to frontline politics last week to attack a UN inquiry into poverty in the UK for its “extraordinary political nature”. The inquiry headed by the UN’s rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Professor Philip Alston, was intended to assess the impact of austerity on the UK’s ability to meet its international human rights commitments. Alston ended his two-week fact finding mission by accusing the government of inflicting “great misery” on its people with “punitive, mean-spirited, and often callous” policies.

This is not the first time the government’s record on poverty and human rights has been criticised by the UN. As Aoife Nolan observes in the London Review of Books, seven of the eight UN envoys that have visited the UK since 2010 have raised concerns. For his part, Alston told a press conference that Britain was in breach of four UN human rights agreements. Unlike civil and political rights, these social and economic rights (which include the right to food, shelter and healthcare) cannot be enforced in UK courts and have historically occupied a second-class status.... See more

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