Poverty is a violation of human rights. With more than a billion people living in extreme poverty, it is the most widespread violation of human rights in the world. Poverty exists not only in the developing countries, but is also a dramatic and hidden reality in the industrialized countries. Particularly affected are disadvantaged and underrepresented groups - indigenous people, people with disabilities, women, children, youth, and the elderly. Hunger and the HIV/AIDS pandemic are also highly related to poverty. Processes of impoverishment inherent in the global economic system are resulting in increasing inequity, social injustice and violence worldwide.
One-quarter of the world's population remains in severe poverty. In 1993, more than 1,300 million people were living on less than US$1 per day. Of these, the largest number, nearly 1,000 million people, are in the Asia and Pacific region; the highest proportion and the fastest growth are in sub-Saharan Africa, where half the population is expected to be poor by 2000; a growing number, 110 million in 1993, are in Latin America; the number below the poverty level in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union had risen to 120 million people by 1993/94; and, in industrialized countries, 80 million people are still below the poverty line (UNDP 1997).
Poverty only goes up, despite the substantial rise in the average standard of living and expenditure on social welfare, because poverty lines are based on people's income. Whether or not you are poor on this measure depends on whether your income is above or below the poverty line. This way of measuring poverty is distorting because income does not capture a household's material standard of living. For example, it ignores whether the household owns its house or the amount of time that adults in the house have to do all the household chores, and to enjoy themselves. In industrialized countries, the elderly are generally much better of than their incomes may suggest, since they are mostly free of debt and well stocked with possessions to make a comfortable life. The fact that some people have a higher material standard of living than do others shows there is inequality; it does not therefore follow that there is also poverty. Each citizen will have her or his own view of what is the minimum level of material resources for a decent life. Concern should be for the condition of those at the bottom of the distribution only if this is considered by them to be unsatisfactory.