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UN expert on extreme poverty and human rights to visit Saudi Arabia


GENEVA (29 December 2016) – United Nations Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Philip Alston, will undertake an official visit to Saudi Arabia from 8 to 19 January 2017 to consider the Saudi Government’s efforts to eradicate poverty and how such efforts relate to its international human rights obligations.

“Saudi Arabia is a rich country in many respects, but as in all countries, challenges relating to poverty still exist,” noted the independent expert designated by the UN Human Rights Council to monitor, report and advise on extreme poverty and human rights.

“Poverty should be understood as a multidimensional phenomenon involving much more than a lack of income alone,” Mr. Alston said.

For the Special Rapporteur, “a multidimensional definition of poverty, which also focuses on access to basic services and social exclusion, better reflects an understanding of poverty that captures the relation between poverty and human rights.”

One key issue the Special Rapporteur will focus on are the ways in which poverty and extreme poverty are defined and measured in Saudi Arabia and on the availability of information about the challenges. The Special Rapporteur will also look into the ways in which Saudi Arabia’s social protection system protects the poor.

“Vision 2030 contains an ambitious agenda that shows the willingness of the Kingdom to improve the livelihoods of people living there, and I am very interested, among other things, to learn more about how the recently announced subsidy reform and introduction of a cash transfer program will affect the lives of the most vulnerable,” the Special Rapporteur said.

The expert, who visits the country at the invitation of the Government, will meet representatives of the central and local governments, non-governmental organizations, academic experts, representatives of international organizations and the wider diplomatic community. He will visit Riyadh and will spend several days in other areas of the country, including Jeddah and the Southwest of the country.

“The visit would be an invaluable opportunity for me to engage with the authorities, non-governmental organizations, experts and people living in poverty about the nature and extent of the challenges in Saudi Arabia.  I also welcome input by organizations and individuals working on these issues in advance of my visit,” Mr. Alston said.

“By speaking to a broad cross-section of Saudi society, I hope to learn more about the country’s efforts in the areas of extreme poverty and human rights and to make a fair and balanced assessment of its record,” he added.

The rights expert will share his preliminary observations and recommendations at a press conference to be held at the end of his mission, at 12:00 on 19 January 2017 at the United Nations building auditorium, Diplomatic Quarter, Riyadh. Copies of his end of mission statement and press release will be available in English and Arabic. Access to the press conference is strictly limited to journalists.

The Special Rapporteur’s final report will be submitted to the Human Rights Council in June 2017.

Mr. Philip Alston (Australia) took up his functions as the Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights in June 2014. 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 independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms of the Human Rights Council 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. Learn more, log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Poverty/Pages/SRExtremePovertyIndex.aspx

UN Human Rights Country Page, Saudi Arabia: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/MENARegion/Pages/SAIndex.aspx

For more information and media requests please contact:
In Riyadh (during the visit): Ms. Laura Bashraheel (+966 11 488 5301 / laura.bashraheel@undp.org)

In Geneva (before and after the visit): Ms. Junko Tadaki (+41 917 9298 / jtadaki@ohchr.org) or write to srextremepoverty@ohchr.org

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

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