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Nairobi, 28 Nov 06

Terming extreme poverty a ‘prison in which many are trapped’, former United States Secretary of State Ms. Madeline Alright this week challenged policy makers in Nairobi to urgently address the scourge.

“Extreme poverty is a prison in which far too many people are trapped –
 a prison that is overcrowded and without justice. We need to find the key,” Ms. Albright said adding that raising rates of economic growth and national income were not enough because the poor were still excluded.

Addressing a consultative conference of the Commission on the Legal Empowerment of the Poor, Ms. Albright said one of the ideas she was interested in is that poverty can be fought by helping the poor access legal rights.

The Commission was launched by a group of industrialized and developing nations to help governments and NGOs work to help the poor get legal rights. The conference was organized by UN-HABITAT, UNDP and UNEP to discuss the various issues hindering poor people from accessing justice in Kenya.

“We are looking for solutions that are both local and global, for under development is a problem that affects every continent, but in ways that are felt in communities and neighbourhoods close to home,” Ms. Albright said.

Similar consultations will be held in Tanzania, Uganda and Ethiopia. Other countries where the commission has held conferences include Brazil, Ukraine and Indonesia with Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Mexico and Guatemala targeted next year.

Ms. Albright said legal empowerment was a comprehensive term with many elements. “These elements are consistent with the idea that strong economies do not come from the ripples created by the rich, nor from handouts provided by government; a healthy economy is like a house- it must be built from the ground up,” she said.

On arrival on Sunday, Ms. Albright had a meeting with the UN-HABITAT Executive Director Mrs. Anna Tibaijuka who reiterated the agency’s continued support for the Commission.

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