June 26, 2018
The Guardian partners with the UN and the Graduate Institute in Geneva to discuss a burning issue for America.
A panel debate with Philip Alston (UN special rapporteur on extreme poverty), Rev Dr Liz Theoharis (co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival), Kenneth Roth (executive director, Human Rights Watch), Catherine Flowers (rural development manager, the Equal Justice Initiative). Moderated by Ed Pilkington (the Guardian’s chief reporter in the US)
On Tuesday, 26 June the Guardian moderated a discussion at the Graduate Institute in Geneva to discuss a burning issue for America: how the country’s vast inequality and the Trump administration’s apparent determination to exacerbate it are posing a direct threat to human rights.
Donald Trump inherited an economy with the highest rate of income inequality among any richer nation. Some 40 million people in the US – one-third of them children – live in poverty, and one person in eight depends on food stamps. Five million Americans live in the kind of abject deprivation normally associated with developing countries.
Since entering the White House, Trump has promoted policies that will aggravate the inequality, slash welfare protections for millions of already struggling Americans, while handing massive tax cuts to the wealthy.
The UN special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Philip Alston, has been investigating the situation in the US as part of his official role as world monitor on the subject. His research, and his report, provide an important snapshot on the state of America today. His conclusions are shocking warnings of the direction being pursued by the world’s most powerful nation:
December: tour of the US
For two weeks in December, Alston toured many sites of the most visceral poverty in America. The Guardian followed him at every stop. The tour took in rural poverty experienced by largely African American people in Alabama, the hurricane-racked travails of Puerto Rico and the joblessness of coal country in West Virginia.
At the end of the tour, Alston produced a preliminary report in which he warned that Trump was turning the US into the “world champion of extreme inequality”.
Earlier this month Alston completed and released his final report on his investigation into US poverty, saying Trump’s approach was “cruel” and would leave millions of Americans deprived of food and healthcare. Last week, Alston presented his report formally to the UN human rights council in Geneva.
On Tuesday 26 June the Guardian sponsored a panel debate on extreme poverty in Trump’s America:
Philip Alston, UN special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights and law professor at New York University.
Rev Dr Liz Theoharis, co-chair along with the Rev William Barber of the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival, which has just completed a 40-day nationwide sweep of America calling for economic and environmental justice. She is also co-director of the Kairos Center for Religions, Rights and Social Justice.
Kenneth Roth, executive director, Human Rights Watch. The global human rights watchdog exposes abuses around the world. It operates in 49 countries, but its largest single country team covers the US.
Catherine Flowers, rural development manager, the Equal Justice Initiative and director and founder, Alabama Center for Rural Enterprise. Flowers has done groundbreaking work on rural poverty in the deep south, including the return of endemic diseases of poverty usually found in the developing world such as the parasite hookworm.
The panel will be moderated by the Guardian’s chief reporter in the US, Ed Pilkington.