“Tackling inequality is key to combating poverty in Namibia,” says UN independent expert

GENEVA (28 May 2013) – Unacceptable levels of inequality along the lines of gender, race, region, ethnicity and class continue to plague Namibia, says the United Nations Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Magdalena Sepúlveda.

“Progress has not been fast enough and Namibia remains one of the most unequal countries in the world,” said the UN expert, while acknowledging the immense levels of inequality that existed as a legacy of the colonial rule and the positive attempts subsequent Governments have made since independence.

“Disparities in income, land distribution, participation in the labor market and access to services have all contributed to the fact that today almost half the population is at risk of falling into poverty,” she warned.

Ms. Sepúlveda’s findings are drawn from a report* on the human rights situation of persons living in extreme poverty in Namibia, which was presented today to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.

“Women continue to be economically marginalized, have unequal access to land and productive resources, and are disproportionately affected by unemployment and HIV/AIDS,” the Special Rapporteur noted, expressing particular concern about the situation of women living in poverty.

The new report provides specific recommendations to ensure that public policies reach the poorest of the poor enabling them to enjoy their human rights on an equal basis with the rest of the population.

“In Namibia, poverty wears a woman’s face,” Ms. Sepúlveda says in her report, which report pays particular attention to Namibian women. “Women continue to be economically marginalized, have unequal access to land and productive resources, and are disproportionately affected by unemployment and HIV/AIDS.”

The Special Rapporteur also expressed particular concern at the alarming rates of maternal mortality and the widespread prevalence of gender-based violence. She urged the Government to take all appropriate measures to eliminate prejudices and negative practices against women, and to ensure that women have access to good quality health care services particularly in rural areas.

The report highlights a number of recommendations to overcome barriers preventing people living in poverty from enjoying specific rights such as the right to health, education, adequate housing, social security and work.

The independent human rights expert’s report was developed on the basis of research and information gathered, including during a visit to the country from 1 to 8 October 2012.

During the visit the Special Rapporteur met with various Government representatives as well as a number of Government agencies, and held meetings with the National Planning Commission, the Social Security Commission, the Anti-Corruption Commission, the Ombudsman’s Office and with local authorities in Kavango (Rundu).

Ms. Sepúlveda also held meetings with representatives from international organizations, donors, civil society and grass roots organizations and visited communities living in poverty in the Omaheke, Kavango, Khomas, and Karas regions.

Magdalena Sepúlveda (Chile) was appointed the Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights in May 2008 by the United Nations Human Rights Council. She has extensive experience in economic, social and cultural rights and holds a PhD in international human rights law from Utrecht University. She is independent from any government or organization and serves in her individual capacity. Learn more, visit: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Poverty/Pages/SRExtremePovertyIndex.aspx

(*) Check the full report on Namibia: http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/HRBodies/HRCouncil/RegularSession/Session23/A-HRC-23-36-Add1_en.pdf or http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/HRC/RegularSessions/Session23/Pages/ListReports.aspx

UN Human Rights, Country Page – Namibia: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/AfricaRegion/Pages/NAIndex.aspx

Check the Special Rapporteur’s “Guiding Principles on Human Rights and Extreme Poverty” (in Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish): http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Poverty/Pages/AnnualReports.aspx

For further information and media enquiries, please contact Orlagh McCann (+ 41 22 917 9695 / srextremepoverty@ohchr.org)

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)

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