UN Special Rapporteur urges Ghana to prioritise social protection

Philip Alston

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Professor Philip Alston, has urged Ghana to prioritise social protection in order to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The UN human rights expert lauded Ghana as a champion of African democracy and a country which had achieved some important development milestones.

He, however, said unless growing inequality and continuing high poverty rates were addressed, the country would fall far short of meeting the key UN SDGs, including the eradication of extreme poverty by 2030.

“Ghana is at a crossroads and must now decide whether to continue existing policies that will further enrich the wealthy and do little for the poor, or to make fiscal adjustments that would lift millions out of poverty and bring them into the agricultural economy in ways that would contribute significantly to economic growth,” Prof Alston stated on Wednesday in his provisional report on Ghana in Accra.

The provisional report was issued at the end of a 10-day fact-finding mission on Ghana, which took the UN Special Rapporteur to the Greater Accra, Northern, and Upper East Regions.

It must be noted that the UN Special Rapporteur’s final report on his visit to Ghana would be presented to the upcoming session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva in June 2018. 

“The benefits of record levels of economic growth experienced over the past decade have gone overwhelmingly to the wealthy, and inequality is higher than it has ever been in Ghana,” said Prof Alston, who examines the human rights implications of poverty in countries around the world.

He said the most recent official data from the Ghana Statistical Service for 2012-2013 revealed that, almost one-quarter of the population were living in poverty and one person in every 12 in extreme poverty.

According to the report, three-and-a-half million of those in poverty were children, with more than a third of them in extreme poverty.

“Spending on social protection is surprisingly low by the standards of most comparable African countries, and very little is spent on social assistance,” Prof Alston explained.

“With a thriving economy and the option to start collecting some of the existing but unpaid taxes that currently exist, choosing to eliminate, or not to eliminate, extreme poverty is a political choice for Ghana,” the UN expert said.

Prof Alston said: “Ghanaian politicians are immensely fond of, and very good at, creating slogans to describe complex but appealing programmes. But there is little doubt that the appetite for such slogans has already far outrun the capacity for realistic implementation”.

“The challenge going forward is for the Government to choose its real priorities, make sure that social protection is among them, and to be more transparent about potential costs and possible funding sources,” he added.

The Special Rapporteur is an independent expert appointed by the Human Rights Council.
His tasks include conducting research and analysis to be presented in separate thematic reports to the Human Rights Council and the General Assembly.

Others are undertaking country visits and reporting on the situation in those countries in relation to the concerns of the mandate.

The rest are sending letters to governments and other relevant entities in situations in which violations of human rights of people living in extreme poverty are alleged to have taken place.

The mandate on extreme poverty was first established in 1998 by the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, and was taken over by the Human Rights Council in June 2006.

It is one of a number of mandates that together form what is known as the United Nations system of special procedures.

Source: GNA

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