Greatly concerned by the increasing number of people who find themselves excluded and marginalized from the current global economic system, Pope Francis has urged the Church to give particular attention to vulnerable and poor populations who are often “without work, without possibilities, without any means of escape.” In his recent inauguration of the Jubilee Year of Mercy on December 8th 2015, Pope Francis encouraged Catholics worldwide to “open wide the doors of their hearts” to forgive others and work against social exclusion. “Mercy and forgiveness must not remain beautiful words,” he said, “but must be realized in daily life.”
On December 17th 2015, at a Press Conference held at the Holy See Press Office (Sala Stampa) in Rome, Franciscans International, along with ATD Fourth World and Caritas Internationalis, presented its publication “Making Human Rights Work for People Living in Extreme Poverty: A Handbook for Implementing the UN Guiding Principles on Extreme Poverty and Human” as a tool for combating extreme poverty; a tool that echoes with the Pope’s concern about today’s “economy of exclusion and inequality.” Defining extreme poverty primarily as a human rights violation, the handbook puts forward key elements for mobilizing and empowering people and communities to advocate for better policies. The handbook’s human-rights based approach recognizes all people as rights-holders and ensures that States are held accountable to upholding those rights.
“The elimination of extreme poverty is not only a moral duty, but also a legal obligation, by virtue of the provisions of international law on human rights. As is enshrined in the UN’s Guiding Principles on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights: ‘Extreme poverty is not inevitable. It is, at least in part, created, enabled and perpetuated by acts and omissions of States and other economic actors; the tools for ending it are within reach,'” stated Francesca Restifo, FI’s Advocacy Director. “Our starting point was the expertise, knowledge and experience of our partners at local level,” she explained about the development of the handbook. “This handbook is the result of their concerns and their contributions.”
Mgr. Bernardo Johannes Bahlmann OFM, Bishop of the Diocese Óbidos in the North-East of Brazil shared the potential impact of the handbook on the communities of his diocese, mostly indigenous communities whose rights are so often being violated by deforestation. “Franciscans live in close contact with communities affected by poverty in all parts of the world,” added Fr. Michael Perry OFM, Minister General of the Order of Friars Minor, noting how a rights-based approach to poverty is in line with Franciscan spirituality, putting human dignity at the center of poverty reduction efforts. “These Franciscans seek to establish a strong bond between the protection of human rights and the protection of the environment.”
FI is using the launch and promotion of its handbook “Making Human Rights Work for People Living in Extreme Poverty: A Handbook for Implementing the UN Guiding Principles on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights,” and the movie “Extreme Poverty: Standing Up For Rights” to push for and exemplify a rights-based approach to addressing extreme poverty at the UN, among Catholic leaders, and with our partners on the field.
Watch summary video of Press Conference here.
Download the handbook here.
Background: Extreme poverty is a result of injustice – people living in poverty do not just suffer from a lack of income, they usually face considerable barriers that prevent them from enjoying fundamental rights, such as the right to food and nutrition, to housing, to work, to health, and to education. They have to accept dangerous working conditions, unsafe housing, and limited access to healthcare, and bear the consequences of a lack of nutritious food, unequal access to justice, and lack of political power. These barriers and subsequent deprivations are interrelated and mutually reinforcing, resulting in a vicious circle of poverty, powerlessness, stigmatization, discrimination, and exclusion. FI and partners developed the handbook “Making Human Rights Work for People Living in Extreme Poverty: A Handbook for Implementing the UN Guiding Principles on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights,” and the movie “Extreme Poverty: Standing Up For Rights” to promote an approach to extreme poverty that centers on rights and empowers those living in poverty to participate in decisions and policies that affect them. FI is promoting the handbook both at the UN, and with its partners at field level, and is currently developing training material and support workshops in the field, so as to have an even wider-reaching impact.