The illusion of wealthy western countries is crumbling down.
The UN will launch an investigation into extreme poverty in Britain this year. The move comes amid concern at the impact of the Tory government’s austerity policies.
Professor Philip Alston, the UN special rapporteur for human rights and poverty, plans to go on a fact-finding mission in the autumn. It is the organization’s first visit to a western European country since it went to Ireland in 2011. Earlier this month, the law expert attracted the fury of US President Donald Trump after publishing a report criticizing America’s response to the fact that 40 million people were living in poverty in the country.
Speaking to the Guardian, Alston said he was interested in examining the effect of the Conservative government’s budget cuts. “No one is suggesting the conditions in the UK are those of a poor developing country, but every rich country, as my mission to the US showed, has pockets of poverty everywhere,” he said.
“The government statistics and a diverse array of civil society organizations would suggest the UK does have important challenges dealing with poverty.”
Alston’s visit to the UK has been welcomed by in some quarters but is sure to anger government officials. Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg told the Sun that the UN mission was pointless, saying: “A report out last week showed a continued fall in absolute child poverty. Surely the UN has better ways of wasting money.”
Earlier this month, America’s Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley labeled Alston’s report on poverty in the US “misleading and politically motivated.”
In his report, Alston criticized the Trump administration’s elimination of “basic protections” for the poorest in society. “The policies pursued over the past year seem deliberately designed to remove basic protections from the poorest, punish those who are not in employment and make even basic health care into a privilege to be earned rather than a right of citizenship,” the report read.