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UN expert on extreme poverty and human rights visits Chile at crucial crossroads

GENEVA / SANTIAGO (12 March 2015) – United Nations Special Rapporteur Philip Alston will undertake an official visit to Chile from 16 to 24 March 2015 to assess the structural causes and consequences of poverty and inequalities in the country. Chile has the highest level of income inequality among the 34 countries belonging to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

“Chile stands at a critical juncture,” said the independent expert charged by the UN Human Rights Council to monitor and report on situations of extreme poverty and human rights worldwide. “Since the transition to democracy, the country has made important progress in reducing poverty and inequalities, but major challenges remain.”

“Inequalities in a society do not emerge overnight - They reflect conscious public policy choices and if the wrong choices are made the result can be to perpetuate a system of unequal distribution of power,” Mr. Alston said. “My sense is that the necessary political will exists to improve the plight of the poor in Chile and I hope this can be acted upon.”

During his nine-day visit, Mr. Alston will visit Santiago, Valparaíso and Temuco. He will meet and engage with the Government, representatives of international organizations and non-governmental organizations, academics and trade unions, and persons living in extreme poverty.

“I look forward to engaging in dialogue with the Chilean Government and learning about its efforts to build a more equal society through legislation, taxation and social spending,” he said.

On 24 March 2015 at 12:00 pm, the Special Rapporteur will hold at a press conference at the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), Celso Furtado Room, to present his preliminary observations on the visit. His full findings and recommendations will be presented in a report to the Human Rights Council in June 2016.

Philip Alston (Australia) took office as UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights in June 2014, following his appointment by the Human Rights Council. He is John Norton Pomeroy Professor of Law at New York University School of Law. Mr. Alston has previously served the UN in several capacities including as Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions, Special Adviser to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on the Millennium Development Goals, as well as chairperson of the UN Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights. Learn more, log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Poverty/Pages/SRExtremePovertyIndex.aspx

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

UN Human Rights, Country Page – Chile: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/LACRegion/Pages/CLIndex.aspx

For more information and media requests, please contact:
In Geneva, before and after the visit: Junko Tadaki (+ 41 22 917 9298 / jtadaki@ohchr.org) or write to srextremepoverty@ohchr.org
In Santiago, during the visit: María Jeannette Moya (+56 2 2210 2977 / mmoya@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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Check the Universal Human Rights Index: http://uhri.ohchr.org/en