What do you have to say to us?
Letter to Friends around the World # 82

The financial, environmental and social crises affecting our world have very serious consequences for people living in the most disregarded places on the planet. They pay a heavy price every day: at the same time their access to basic rights is lessening and suspicions about them are growing. They are even criticised for fighting to survive and maintaining their solidarity. They are also often accused of damaging the environment. Little is known about the impacts these crises are having on the poorest, who are excluded from the debate about how to define policies to remedy their worst effects.

Many families are obliged to live in vulnerable housing under bridges, on the edge of ravines or near to landfills, finding new uses for things that other people no longer want, but there is no consideration for what they have to teach us about ecology. In the same way, people living in a neighbourhood constantly at risk of flooding, resisting side by side with spades in their hands have a great deal to say about sustainable development, but they are ignored.

What about street sellers faced with the risks of selling without any insurance against theft, bad weather, inability to do business? What do they have to say about human activity? And the long-term unemployed, now excluded from statistics in certain countries, who refuse to accept that they will remain idle; what do they have to teach us about an economy that would enable all workers to be proud of earning a living and feeding their family?

These families are struggling with the urgency created by poverty, demanding support for their efforts and plans to open up a future for their children through schooling, healthcare, housing and culture. If our societies were to adopt them as their guiding light, aiming for economic development that leaves nobody behind, they would launch new policies. They would at last decide to invest in the growth of our true wealth, by enabling each child, youngster and adult to develop their potential in order to build a world for all, with all. To take up this challenge, dear friends and correspondents of the Forum on Overcoming Extreme Poverty, you have knowledge and a vision to share.

Isabelle Perrin, Director General,

International Movement ATD Fourth World