A United Nations expert is scheduled to attend a Skid Row town hall meeting Tuesday on the intersection of extreme poverty and criminalization of the poor and homeless in Los Angeles.

Philip Alston, the U.N. special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, is on the final day of a two-day visit to the Los Angeles area as part of a coast-to-coast tour to examine government efforts to eradicate poverty and how they relate to U.S. obligations under international human rights law.

Alston began the visit to the region Monday by attending a forum on homelessness organized by the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California. The forum at the group’s headquarters in the Westlake district included sessions on bail and the impact of fines and fees on the human rights of people living in poverty.

The event also featured a segment on anti-homeless laws and quality of life ordinances, with a focus on Orange County, according to David Colker with the ACLU.

The tour began Friday in Washington when Alston had what he described as a productive day of meetings with federal officials, discussing such programs as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, popularly known as welfare, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as the Food Stamp Program, and Medicare.

“Some might ask why a U.N. special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights would visit a country as rich as the United States,” Alston said. “But despite great wealth in the U.S., there also exists great poverty and inequality.”

Alston said he “would like to focus on how poverty affects the civil and political rights of people living within the U.S, given the United States’ consistent emphasis on the importance it attaches to these rights in its foreign policy, and given that it has ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.”

Alston is scheduled to be in San Francisco Wednesday; Montgomery, Alabama, on Thursday and Friday; Atlanta Saturday; Puerto Rico Sunday and Monday; Washington, D.C., next Tuesday; Charleston, West Virginia, Dec. 13; and Washington, D.C., Dec. 14-15.

Throughout his tour, Alston will meet with government officials, people living in poverty, civil society organizations and academic experts to address a wide range of key areas including the criminal justice system, welfare and health care, barriers to political participation, homelessness, and basic social rights such as the right to social protection, housing, water and sanitation.

Alston is scheduled to share his preliminary observations and recommendations at a news conference Dec. 15 in Washington. The final report on his U.S. visit will be available in the spring and be presented to the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva in June.

Alston is an Australian who is a professor at the New York University School of Law and whose teaching focuses primarily on international law, human rights law and international criminal law.

Alston began his duties as the special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights in June 2014. As a special rapporteur, he is part of what is the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council.

Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the U.N. Human Rights system, is the general name of the council’s independent fact- finding and monitoring mechanisms, which address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world.

Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis. They are not U.N. staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

—City News Service

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