The Commonwealth and decriminalisation of poverty

Project Summary

This project is hosted by: Institute of Commonwealth Studies

Research interests:
Colonies & Colonization, emigration & immigration, Communities, Classes, Races, Political Institutions
Africa, Africa, Asia, Asia, Australasia, Australasia, Caribbean, Caribbean, England, England, Europe, Europe, Ireland, Ireland, Middle East, Middle East, North America, North America, Scotland, Scotland, South America, South America, United Kingdom, United Kingdom, Wales, Wales
Project period:
01-Jan-2022 - 31-Dec-2023
Project categories:
Research project
Project summary:

A project to raise awareness across the Commonwealth of the multiple needs for the decriminalisation of poverty programme, in support of SDG 16, Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions.

As Louise Ehlers (Unit Manager, Justice Security and Accountability, Human Rights Initiative, Open Society Foundations) has noted, around the world states routinely use law enforcement, courts and prisons against the poor and most marginalized for reasons that have little to do with safety, but rather to protect the boundaries of wealth and privilege. Commonwealth countries, with their historically-connected legal systems, provide many examples of this. Criminal justice institutions, with their mandate to arbitrate on and dispense justice, hold the power to curtail the most fundamental human rights: those to liberty and life. They are among the most powerful tools that states have at their disposal to assert social control and oppress dissent, backed by state-sanctioned use of lethal force, the derogation of the right not to be tortured, extreme and disproportionate sentencing, as well as overcrowding and inhumane conditions of detention. These comprise multiple, intersectional forms of oppression, including combinations of gender, mental health, race, ethnicity, nationality and class, negatively inflect legal outcomes for marginalized constituencies, which include but are not limited to the homeless, women, and landless and land-poor groups, people with disabilities, the LGBTIQ+ community, sex workers, informal traders, and individuals who otherwise use public spaces to earn a living.

Management Details

Lead researcher & project contact:

Name Position Institute Organisation Contact
Dr Sue Onslow Reader at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies Institute of Commonwealth Studies School of Advanced Study, University of London



Funder Grant type Award
Open Society Foundation £112,000.00