Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights


The Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights is one of the thematic special procedures overseen by the United Nations Human Rights Council. The mandate holder’s role is to study the relationship between extreme poverty and human rights, including the impact of discrimination on the situation of vulnerable groups, such as women, children, and persons with disabilities. Based on the information gathered, the Special Rapporteur identifies strategies for removing obstacles to the full enjoyment of human rights of those living in extreme poverty. The Special Rapporteur also helps persons living in extreme poverty become more involved in measures that affect them by issuing recommendations.

The Special Rapporteur is also engaged with other activities of the UN. He or she assesses the implementation of the Second UN Decade for the Eradication of Poverty and submits recommendations on the realization of Millennium Development Goals. The Special Rapporteur develops cooperation with UN bodies dealing with extreme poverty and participates in international conferences on extreme poverty.


The mandate of the Special Rapporteur lasts for a period of three years. The mandate is filled by one highly-qualified individual.

The Commission on Human Rights established the Special Rapporteurship in 1998 with Resolution 1998/25. The Human Rights Council extended the mandate in 2011 with Resolution 17/13.

In fulfilling the mandate, the Special Rapporteur undertakes country visits, communicates with governments concerning information and complaints received regarding alleged rights violations, and submits activity reports to the UN General Assembly and Human Rights Council.

Country Visits

One important function of the Special Rapporteur is to conduct country visits, which it does on the basis of an invitation from the country concerned. Country visits provide the Special Rapporteur an opportunity to understand the progress and obstacles to the enjoyment of human rights by persons living in extreme poverty.

The Special Rapporteur undertakes approximately one to three country visits per year, to States that have extended an invitation. A list of previous country visits and the Special Rapporteur’s subsequent reports are available here.

More than 100 countries have extended standing invitations to country visits by all thematic special procedures. View the list of countries that have extended standing invitations here.

Receiving Information & Complaints

The Special Rapporteur receives complaints about alleged violations of human rights against persons living in extreme poverty. Importantly, the Special Rapporteur does not issue decisions concerning individual complaints and cannot require the State to remedy any alleged violation; rather, the Special Rapporteur raises the issue of concern with the relevant State. The Special Rapporteur may contact the government concerned to invite comment on the allegation, seek clarification, remind the government of its international obligations, or request information on steps being taken by the government to redress the situation. Generally called “communications,” these exchanges with the government can take a variety of forms of varying degrees of significance. Specifically, the Special Rapporteur contacts a government through either an allegation letter or an urgent appeal.

The communications sent by the Special Rapporteur and other special procedures are also compiled in periodic reports submitted to the UN Human Rights Council at each of its regular sessions.

In all communications, the Special Rapporteur is careful not to draw any conclusions about the facts of the case. Instead, the Special Rapporteur simply presses for the government to ensure that the individual’s human rights are not violated.

Allegation Letters

Generally, the Special Rapporteur sends an allegation letter in circumstances where the alleged violation has already occurred, or is not so pressing as to warrant sending an urgent appeal. An allegation letter generally contains a request for the government to clarify the substance of the allegation and to forward any information related to the allegation to the Special Rapporteur. Past allegation letters are available for viewing here.

Urgent Appeals

The urgent appeals procedure is reserved for cases in which there are sufficiently reliable allegations that a person’s human rights may be violated and that the situation is time-sensitive in terms of loss of life, life-threatening situations, or imminent or ongoing damage of a grave nature. If it appears that the allegation letters procedure is unlikely to address the situation in a timely enough manner, the Special Rapporteur will send an urgent appeal to the government concerned.

Reports to the UN General Assembly and Human Rights Council

The Special Rapporteur reports annually to the Human Rights Council and the UN General Assembly on all of its activities relating to its mandate. These reports are available on the Special Rapporteur’s Annual Reports webpage.


Complaints should be submitted to the Special Rapporteur via the online submission form. Complaints submitted to the Special Rapporteur should comply with the guidance provided, and include the following minimum information:

  • the identity of the alleged victim(s);
  • identity of the alleged perpetrator(s) of the violation;
  • identity of the person(s) or organization(s) submitting the communication, which will be kept confidential;
  • any steps taken to address the violation; and,
  • the date, place, and detailed description of the circumstances of the incident(s) or alleged violation.

The Special Rapporteur may also be contacted by:

  • Mail:

Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights
c/o Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
Palais des Nations
8-14 Avenue de la Paix
CH-1211 Geneva 10

  • Fax: +41 22 917 90 06

To contact the Special Rapporteur with regard to another matter (not a complaint), use the email address: [email protected].