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UN rights expert urges access to justice for those living in poverty

A UN expert on Monday urged member states to improve access to justice for the poor [UN News Centre report], explaining that ensuring access to justice is a necessary step to combating poverty. The Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty, Magdalena Sepulveda, explained that access to justice is a human right and also an essential element to ending poverty worldwide. Sepulveda called on member states to ensure that poverty is not a barrier to access to justice and urged states to pledge that they will work towards improving access to justice for the poorest members of their communities. Sepulveda will provide a platform that details the steps member states should take to ensuring access to justice to the most marginalized members of their community. Sepulveda explained that "Concrete actions must be taken to ensure that all individuals are empowered to claim their rights, demand effective remedies and accountability. ... Without this, we are left with a two-tier rule of law: a reality for the privileged, but only rhetorical for the poor and excluded." A report detailing the obstacles presented to ensuring access to justice for those living in poverty will be presented before the General Assembly next month.

Ending discrimination and equal access to justice have recently been key goals for the UN. Last month UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that ending discrimination against women is necessary to fix the problem of global poverty [JURIST report]. Speaking before the World Congress of Global Partnership for Young Women in Seoul, South Korea, Ban declared that while women around the world have made tremendous advances in fields such as business, law and government, laws and policies that discriminate against women hamper not only women's rights but prevent nations from climbing out of poverty. In 2011 the UN Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers Gabriela Knaul called for integration of a gender perspective [JURIST report] into countries' criminal justice systems on. The annual report "addresses the need to consider and integrate a gender perspective in the criminal justice system as a fundamental step towards allowing equal access to justice for women and men and in respect of the role to be played by judges and lawyers."

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