At the end of her first fact-finding mission to the country, the UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Magdalena Sepúlveda, said Moldova has strengthened its legal system in recent years by adopting important legislation, but more needed to be done to ensure such measures were implemented. “Even small steps taken to strengthen social inclusion in Moldova will have a major impact on empowering the most disadvantaged in the country,” Ms. Sepúlveda said, noting also the limited available resources available and additional challenges imposed by the current global economic crisis. The Moldovan Government boosted economic growth, and reduced poverty from almost 70 per cent of the population in 2000 to 26 per cent in 2004. However, she warned, after 2005 the economic growth and development models have not been shared by all members of society.“There is a widening gap between urban and rural areas and some groups of the society still remain at the margin of social, political and economic processes,” said Ms. Sepúlveda.She drew special attention to troubling rates of educational attainment in general mandatory education, with children in rural areas, children with disabilities and Romani children particularly affected.The human rights expert called for a number of reform measures aimed at integrating persons with disabilities fully into the life of the community, including reform of the guardianship system and adoption of a comprehensive adult deinstitutionalization plan, in accordance with Moldova’s obligations under the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.Ms. Sepúlveda also visited some Romani communities, where she highlighted high levels of stigma and discrimination preventing the members of the communities from lifting themselves out of poverty. She commended Moldova on introducing the body of Roma community mediators, but warned that “local authorities must ensure that the selection of mediators is carried out in full compliance with the human rights principles of transparency, meaningful and effective participation of the relevant communities, access to information and accountability.”During her week-long mission, the UN Special Rapporteur met with senior Government officials, donor agencies, international organizations, civil society and communities living in poverty in Chisinau, Balti, Drochia, Calarasi and Briceni districts, as well as Bender and Tiraspol on the left bank of the Nistru.Ms. Sepúlveda will present a comprehensive report with her final findings and recommendations to the UN Human Rights Council in June 2014.Special rapporteurs are appointed by the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council to examine and report back on a country situation or a specific human rights theme. The positions are honorary and the experts are not UN staff, nor are they paid for their work.