[JURIST] The Commission on the Legal Empowerment of the Poor [official website] released a report [materials; press conference recorded video] Tuesday emphasizing the essential nature of the rule of law in eliminating poverty. The report's findings indicated that a vast majority of the world's poor live outside the protections of the law. Many are not registered with any state legal entity, making their existence essentially undocumented and creating additional barriers to exercising their rights:
Four billion people around the world are robbed of the chance to better their lives and climb out of poverty, because they are excluded from the rule of law. Whether living below or slightly above the poverty line, these men, women, and children lack the protections and rights afforded by the law. They may be citizens of the country in which they live, but their resources, modest at best, can neither be properly protected nor leveraged. Thus it is not the absence of assets or lack of work that holds them back, but the fact that the assets and work are insecure, unprotected, and far less productive than they might be. There are further vulnerabilities, as well. Indigenous communities may be deprived of a political voice and their human rights violated. In addition to exclusion based on their poverty and their gender, poor women may also be denied the right to inherit property. In our own era then, vast poverty must be understood as created by society itself.
In too many countries, the laws, institutions, and policies governing economic, social, and political affairs deny a large part of society the chance to participate on equal terms. The rules of the game are unfair. This is not only morally unacceptable; it stunts economic development and can readily undermine stability and security. The outcomes of governance – that is, the cumulative effect of policies and institutions on peoples’ lives – will only change if the processes of governance are fundamentally changed.
The commission called on world governments to make fighting legal disenfranchisment a top priority.
In April, UN Office on Drugs and Crime Executive Director Antonio Maria Costa [official profile] emphasized in an address [text; JURIST report] that the rule of law is necessary to achieving all eight of the UN's anti-poverty Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) [official website; official backgrounder].