Extreme poverty is violence - Breaking the silence - Pathways towards peace constitutes both the core and the overriding theme of research undertaken by ATD Fourth World in 25 countries. For three years, people living in extreme poverty and academics worked together to share their knowledge of and their understanding of poverty. Their conclusions are clear: “poverty means injustice and violence in every meaning of the term”.
The violence of society ignoring the suffering endured by families from generation to generation. The violence of children, young people and adults being scorned and treated “as though we were no longer human beings”. The violence of whole neighbourhoods, villages and communities being excluded from social, economic and environmental life “as though we were wiped off the face of the earth”.
The institutional violence brought about by politicians who are content simply to reduce poverty, as is the case with the Millennium Development Goals, instead of applying global policies based on and rooted in human rights for all.
The violence of ignoring the efforts and knowledge of those who strive to overcome the violence of extreme poverty and strive day and night to build peace in their neighbourhoods. Our research has highlighted how much this essential contribution of the very poorest towards peace in the world remains unrecognised and underestimated.
This is why it is urgent to “break the silence”. Not by setting off people against each other, thereby provoking even more violence, but by making it possible for people to come together and think, act and live differently.
The International Day for the Eradication of Poverty is like a large window opening out onto this ongoing project! The theme of next 17 October, inspired by this research, is “ending the violence of extreme poverty: promoting empowerment and building peace”.
It is from the centre of this project which is drawing together more and more people with new commitments and new reasoning, that peace is emerging, rather than from the compromises gained in Rio + 20. Beyond all visible and invisible borders, this peace constitutes our planet's most precious resource and common possession. It is our responsibility to hand it down to future generations.
Eugen Brand, Director General
International Movement ATD Fourth World