South Asians for Human Rights (SAHR) expresses solidarity on the international day for the eradication of poverty on 17th October 2009.

Over the last five years, in an era of unprecedented global wealth creation, the number of people living in poverty has increased. Poverty is not simply about low income: it is about multidimensional deprivation – hunger, malnutrition, illiteracy, unsafe drinking water, lack of access to basic health services, social discrimination, physical insecurity and political exclusion.  According to World Bank statistics 1.4 billion people live in poverty out of which 400 million poor are in South Asia.

The world-wide persistence of poverty is a violation of human rights, of the right to health and education, the right to adequate food, housing and social security, the right to participation in democratic decision making. Violations of these rights can be a cause, as much as a consequence, of poverty.

Poverty in South Asia is the result of appalling economic and social disparities, which has been aggravated by socio-political tensions within countries, followed by militaristic solutions, as well as the pursuit of unregulated markets.  This has resulted in social exclusion, gender discrimination and violence, child labour.

South Asia has the world’s largest conflict-affected popula¬tion – about 71 million people. Poverty in Afghanistan has increased due to the ongoing conflicts in the country and according to official statistics around 20 million people are living under the line of poverty. In Bangladesh, shocks to the economy in the form of natural disasters, rising food prices and political confrontation, remains one of the poorest countries in the world. In Bhutan, 32% of the population is poor, and poverty is associated with harsh living conditions in the mountainous areas. World Bank estimates for India show that 456 million (42% of the total Indian population) now live below poverty. A third of the global poor now reside in India. The high poverty levels in India are ascribed to policies which have led to unequal access to education, health, economic opportunities, as well as exclusion by caste, ethnicity, religion and gender.Nepal today has entered a new phase of constitutional developments in a peaceful environment. Poor and excluded groups are not calling for revenge, retaliation or even transitional justice, but rather for sustainable peace which would result in poverty alleviation and better living conditions for its people. For Pakistan, rising poverty has been the result of autocratic governance, economic disparities, and war or terrorist violence. May 2009 marked the end of Sri Lanka’s nearly three decade long armed conflict, but it left a large number IDPs poorer than before.

The incidence of poverty in South Asia presents a challenge for all of us, governments, citizens as well as the international community to end global inequalities,  to promote tolerance and peace amongst countries of the region and within each country and to facilitate sustainable development.

The eradication of  poverty is  a moral and political challenge for all human beings. On this International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, SAHR urges everyone to commit themselves to the struggle for the end of poverty so as to protect human rights.

On Behalf of the members of South Asians for Human Rights
Hameeda Hossain,
Co-Chairperson (SAHR)
17th October 2009