Utilising Human Rights to tackle the Social injustice of Destitution: Determining the Destitution Threshold

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Law and Social Transformation Conference (2019) (Lancaster Univeristy, U.K.)

Destitution is an ill-defined concept which is seldom addressed at a policy level from a human rights perspective. Even so, the non-realisation of a number of Economic Social Rights and as such Social (in)Justice is inherent within the experience of being destitute. This justifies the examination of destitution from a human rights perspective.

In order to examine destitution, it must first be defined. A rights-based definition of destitution will contain component rights and a level of realisation of these component rights below which destitution exists. In order to highlight and address the challenge destitution poses to contemporary human rights law, this paper will contribute towards defining destitution from a human rights perspective. This will be achieved through determining the level of rights realisation below which destitution can be said to exist: the destitution threshold. This placing will be based upon an examination of the key themes and concepts inherent within existing legal and non-legal definitions of destitution. The key theme of ‘extreme poverty’ as being differentiated from poverty by the sub-themes of ‘survival’, ‘subsistence’ and ‘basic rights’ will be explored and then utilised as a tool by which to determine the destitution threshold.

The examination of these themes will inform the central contention that the use of the concept of the ‘minimum core obligation’, supplemented by the concepts of benchmarks and indicators, are pre-existing human rights mechanisms which can inform a determination of the destitution threshold.

Through framing the destitution experience in terms of tangible rights the aim is to further effective policy and law to tackle, and mobilise against, destitution. Thus, the prevention and alleviation of destitution whilst being of value in itself, can also be a stimulus for the implementation of fundamental social and economic rights at the domestic level.

PeriodFeb 2019
Event typeConference
LocationLancaster, United KingdomShow on map