The Legalities of Poverty: Is Poverty a Violation of International Human Rights Law? [PhD] (completed)

This project explores the nexus between poverty and human rights from an international legal perspective.

About the project

Research thus far has indicated that the concept of poverty is well-covered by already existing human rights legal obligations at the domestic level, meaning that the use of the word 'poverty' as a human rights violation is redundant at the domestic level because the individual elements of poverty (food, shelter, work, education, participation, etc.) are undoubtedly human rights violations by a state. This is the case whether a state has failed to eradicate the elements of poverty (a failure of protect and fulfilling) or has caused poverty itself (a failure to respect).

On the other hand, the concept of poverty as a human rights legal obligation is value-added at the international level. While it may be settled law that states have numerous obligations domestically, obligations across borders to people in other countries remains disputed. By conceptualizing a global freedom from poverty, it does seem likely that existing legal norms protect all individuals in all countries from actions and policies by any country that may create poverty, even as a side effect to actions with another purpose.

The Ph.D. dissertation analyzes these issues in detail from a legal perspective, while also drawing explanatory parallels to ethical obligations and the relationship between law and ethics.


Determine whether poverty is simply an issue about ethics and charity or whether it also about law and obligations.


Ph.D. dissertation (ca. 400-page book).


Personal background

This project is conducted by Richard Hustad, a US citizen permanently residing in Norway. He is a licensed attorney (J.D.) in the US and in Norway (international law) while also holding a graduate degrees in both human rights and in international relations.

Hustad previously was a practicing civil rights attorney in federal and state courts in the USA, particularly criminal defense appeals and civil rights litigation, with experience in the Office of the Counsel to the Governor of the State of Connecticut, the Office of the Connecticut State Senator for the 19th District, and the Office of the Public Defender.

Time frame

Completion date is ca. November 2011

Theoretical basis, scientific method:

Analyzing poverty from a legal perspective, primarily as legal dogmatics, but also including fundamental jurisprudential questions surrounding the nature of law.


Faculty of Law, University of Oslo

Tags: human rights, poverty
Published Oct. 18, 2016 12:00 PM - Last modified Nov. 9, 2018 1:27 PM