A United Nations official says many people in the United States face “barriers to political participation” and suffer from “great poverty and inequality,” despite the US government’s emphasis on democracy and the country’s great wealth.
Philip Alston, who is the UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, is visiting several US states to examine inequality and poverty.
The Australian human rights expert started his US tour last Friday and will visit the states of California, West Virginia, Alabama, Washington, DC, and the US territory of Puerto Rico.
Alston said he will visit West Virginia to look into the dwindling industrial jobs available there and will go to California to investigate the state’s homeless problem.
“Some might ask why a UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights would visit a country as rich as the United States. But despite great wealth in the US, there also exists great poverty and inequality,” Alston wrote in a statement.
“I would like to focus on how poverty affects the civil and political rights of people living within the US, given the United States’ consistent emphasis on the importance it attaches to these rights in its foreign policy, and given that it has ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights,” Alston said.
The UN official will also look into voting rights in the state and “government efforts to eradicate poverty in the county, and how they related to US obligations under international human rights law.”
On Friday, Alston plans to hold a press conference in the US capital to speak about what he found during his trip and give recommendations on how to confront the problems.
His full report will be presented in 2018 before the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland.
Experts hope that the visit will draw attention to issues of poverty in America, despite being the wealthiest countries in the world.
“The US has an extraordinary ability to naturalize and accept the extreme poverty that exists even in the context of such extreme wealth,” David Grusky, director of the Center on Poverty and Inequality at Stanford said.
According to the US census, around 41 million Americans live in poverty in a country of 323 million.
Moreover, the US consistently exhibits higher rates of income inequality than most developed nations in the world, mainly as a result of an unfair tax system and unrestrained capitalism.