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Malaysia: UN human rights expert visits to assess poverty

Malay Version

GENEVA (8 August 2019) – The UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Philip Alston, will undertake a fact-finding visit to Malaysia from 13 to 23 August 2019.

“Malaysia can point to a very strong track record on reducing poverty, yet parts of the population have been left behind, and there are important questions about how the country is measuring poverty and what might be overlooked,” said Alston.

“This administration made a range of laudable commitments to people affected by poverty when it came to power 15 months ago, and my visit provides an opportunity to assess how those promises have translated into action.”

Malaysia’s national poverty rate fell from nearly 50 percent in 1970 to 0.4 percent in 2016 and official figures suggest that poverty has been virtually eradicated. Yet, poverty is persistently higher for certain groups including children and indigenous peoples, and independent analysis has suggested that if Malaysia’s poverty line were aligned with comparable countries, the poverty rate would be significantly higher.

Alston will travel to Kuala Lumpur, Selangor, Sarawak, Sabah, Kelantan and Putrajaya. He will meet with government officials and individuals affected by poverty, as well as representatives of civil society organisations, international organisations, activists and academics.

“I plan to examine the impact of poverty on people’s capacity to enjoy their civil and political rights, as well as the impact of development strategies, gaps in the social protection system, including access to social support, education and healthcare, and the situation of other groups disproportionately impacted by poverty,” Alston said.

“I will look at the precarious situation of foreign workers, who play an important role in Malaysia’s economy but are excluded from official poverty statistics, and often work for low pay in difficult conditions.”

The visit by the Special Rapporteur will be grounded in extensive input and research in advance of the mission, including a thorough review of public information, more than 70 advance phone calls and written submissions from people affected by poverty, civil society, academics and others. The submissions made public with the authors’ consent are available here.

The Special Rapporteur will share his preliminary observations and recommendations at a news conference in Kuala Lumpur at the end of his mission on 23 August 2019 at 10:30am local time. The Special Rapporteur’s final report on his visit to Malaysia will be presented to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva in June 2020.


Note: Before and during the visit, the Special Rapporteur’s engagement with the media will be limited to commenting on the scope of the visit, the areas he will be visiting, and other logistical aspects. Only at the press conference and thereafter will he be in a position to discuss his findings and conclusions.

Mr. Philip Alston (Australia) took up his functions as the Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights in June 2014.  As a Special Rapporteur, he is 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.

Follow the Special Rapporteur on Twitter@Alston_UNSR
and Facebook at

UN human rights, Country Page — Malaysia

For more information and media requests, please contact: Ms Juana Sotomayor (+41 794443702; jsotomayor@ohchr.org) and Ms. Rebecca Riddell (+1 512 663 6614; rebecca.riddell@nyu.edu )

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts please contact: Mr. Jeremy Laurence, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+41 22 917 9383 / jlaurence@ohchr.org)

Follow news related to the UN’s independent human rights experts on Twitter @UN_SPExperts.