Leaving no-one behind
Letter to Friends around the World # 85

The families directly hit by typhoon Haïyan, who are desperately searching for their loved ones and supporting each other in the struggle to resist giving up, remind us of all those whose lives are ceaselessly devastated and yet never lose hope.

Only recently I met some families in the Paris area who are worried because they are going to have to leave the neighbourhood where they found a home after what has been, in some cases, years of wandering.

Their dilapidated homes are due for demolition, but no lasting alternative has been offered to them. Because they live in poverty, the town does not want them and would like them to go elsewhere.

But where? To avoid giving in to despair they are getting organised and mobilising themselves, determined not abandon those among them who have already been worn down by years of hardship. The violence caused by poverty is intolerable.

So is the violence with which the intelligence, experience and courage of those who daily resist poverty is ignored and even denied. Yet their knowledge and experience could teach society a powerful and relevant lesson about living together in a way that respects each person's dignity.

"It is true that my life is very difficult, but I still worry about those that no-one sees those who are not even included in the poverty statistics. Those are the people we should worry about first." These are the words of a father in La Paz during the research project evaluating the impact of the Millennium Development Goals that the ATD Fourth World Movement has been conducting with over 2000 participants in 12 countries.

Despite the prevailing insecurity, which makes things even more difficult, young people whom we know in Bangui continue taking books to read with children in the most neglected neighbourhoods so that their intelligence is stimulated and preserved. They show us in this way the depth and quality of human commitment which is necessary if we want to build our society in a way that truly includes everyone.

In Switzerland, one woman fighting against material shortages and humiliation tells us of her fear that the battle for eradicating poverty in the name of progress, will become a battle against the poorest.

Those facing chronic poverty, in the North and the South, who took part in this evaluation project echo in their recommendations the General Secretary of the United Nations when in his report he insists on a life with dignity for everyone.

The post development targets which the international community will fix for itself must leave no-one behind. This can only be achieved if from the start those with the experience of the worst forms of poverty are involved in the project.

Isabelle Perrin,

Director General

International Movement ATD Fourth World