The Permanent Forum came into existence at the end of the 1970s as a result of a period of isolation and lack of understanding experienced by the founder of ATD Fourth World, Father Joseph Wrésinski (1917-1988), and by families living in the shanty town of Noisy-le-Grand in the Paris suburbs. During this period, at the end of the 1950s, he decided to create a network of Friends around the world, the aim being that individuals or small organisations that also worked with very poor people should not remain isolated in their efforts to fight poverty. Today, this network is called the "Permanent forum on extreme poverty in the world". It is co-ordinated by ATD Fourth World.
Each participant in the Forum has their own identity, objectives and philosophy: The aim is not for participants to represent or become part of ATD Fourth World.
The objective of the Forum is to enable participants to share their questions, successes and failures, and to think with others about their own projects and commitment to the fight against poverty in a spirit of freedom and reciprocity.
The Forum does not have a legal status, and does not run a membership system. It does not provide subsidies or material or financial assistance, and cannot be used as a platform for promoting the individual interests or projects of participants.
The network’s resources are minimal: personalised correspondence and a simple newsletter called "Letter to Friends Around the World", which is published three times a year (currently in English, French, Spanish and Portuguese).
By means of this Letter, somebody living in Colombia, for example, can learn about the work of another person fighting poverty in Morocco, perhaps giving them encouragement or even new ideas.
Two aspects are particularly important in the short articles that appear in the Letter.
Firstly, examples of the courage and effort displayed by individuals or groups involved in the fight against extreme poverty illustrated by real-life situations and experiences. Secondly, the projects that they run, however modest, and the hard work and perseverance that they invest in those projects.
The real strength of the Permanent Forum derives from the commitment and the testimonies of the poor themselves, and those who are working alongside them. Now the Permanent Forum is becoming the Forum on Overcoming Extreme Poverty.