The United States is often considered to be a leader among developed nations, yet more than 5 million people in the US live in “Third World conditions of absolute poverty,” according to a recently published United Nations report.

The damning report follows a two-week investigative mission to the US, led by Philip Alston, the UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, in December 2017. It will be presented to the UN Human Rights Council on June 21.

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About 12% of the US population lives in poverty and 18.5 million live in extreme poverty, according to government data — and the situation is only likely to worsen due to recent policy changes, the UN report says.

“The United States already leads the developed world in income and wealth inequality, and it is now moving full steam ahead to make itself even more unequal,” the report says. “But this is a race that no one else would want to win.”

The report points to several shortcomings in US policies that Alston and his team believe will exacerbate inequality and poverty, including persistent racial and gender discrimination, the criminalization of the symptoms of poverty (such as homelessness and drug abuse), economic policies, and environmental pollution.

While the report acknowledges that the current state of poverty in the US is the result of decades of policies, it says that the Trump administration’s policies will further diminish the rights of people in the US.

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“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 says.

According to the Reuters, the White House did not immediately respond to its request for comments on the report. However, a US official in Geneva, where the Human Rights Council is currently meeting, said "the Trump Administration has made it a priority to provide economic opportunity for all Americans.”

The report highlights the glaring gap between the level of commitment to ending poverty and inequality that the US purports to have and its actual implementation of policies that would protect human rights for all.

“The American dream is rapidly becoming the American illusion,” the report says. “The equality of opportunity, which is so prized in theory, is in practice a myth, especially for minorities and women, but also for many middle-class white workers.”

Global Citizen campaigns in support of the Global Goals to end extreme poverty by 2030. You can take action here to call on US leaders and ask them to support education funding.


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By Daniele Selby