Economic growth is not the solution to eradicating global poverty, warned Olivier De Schutter, the UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights. According to De Schutter, the traditional strategy of promoting economic growth to fight poverty has created a planet on the brink of climate collapse, with an elite hoarding wealth while millions live in extreme poverty.

In his report to the UN Human Rights Council, De Schutter detailed the environmental destruction and inequality caused by current economic policies. He urged governments and international organizations to stop using GDP as a measure of progress and to focus on human rights and social well-being.

De Schutter stressed that the obsession with economic growth favors the rich and damages the planet’s vital ecosystems. He suggested that economic policies should guarantee basic rights such as access to social services and a clean and sustainable environment.

The report highlights that economic growth in the Global South has failed to lift people out of poverty. Wealth in these countries often depends on labor exploitation and resource extraction to benefit the global North and pay foreign debt. De Schutter argued that even in low-income countries where growth is necessary, development should focus on social and environmental well-being rather than increasing GDP.

De Schutter called for a radical shift in the fight against poverty, promoting a human rights-based economy that prioritizes public services and social protection. He advocated debt restructuring and cancellation, and the financing of public services through progressive inheritance, wealth, and carbon taxes. He also stressed the need for greater international cooperation against tax evasion.

The Special Rapporteur noted that blind faith in economic growth limits imaginative solutions to poverty. He will propose concrete measures such as rejecting GDP as an indicator of progress, ensuring government-supported jobs, valuing unpaid care and domestic work, setting minimum wages, and capping the wealth generated by destructive industries.

Olivier De Schutter, appointed UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights in May 2020, works independently and voluntarily as part of the Special Procedures of the UN Human Rights Council.