Every attitude, every gesture has to fight poverty and exclusion. There are many ways to act, regardless of our skills and availability. These messages, these testimonials reflect. Feel free to contribute.

Testimonies are published under the responsibility of the author. They are subject to validation: these will be published only if they comply, in form and substance the spirit of this day as defined in the International Charter for October 17.



Isabelle Pypaert Perrin, October 17, 2019

Isabelle Pypaert Perrin, Directeur general, International Movement ATD Fourth World, October 17, 2019

“There are no dreams in my head: other people don’t like us.” Anastasia says out loud what so many children think inside.

There are so many children who are not expected to be anywhere, who are constantly criticised for making noise, for being distracted, or for not knowing their lessons. They never hear “good job!” even when they can recite lessons by heart. These are children who are insulted from across the street, who clench their fists when their families are attacked or when people speak badly of their parents. They are children who live in slums, who are driven from place to place, and who cannot attend school regularly. With their parents or alone, they often must flee their country without knowing if they will be welcomed anywhere.

Children living in poverty are first and foremost children who, like everyone else, like to laugh, play and be with others. But in their hearts they are certain of one thing: if the world could understand their parents as they do, then people would make room for their families and life would change. From a young age, they have realised how tough their lives are and have been trying to help in any way they can.

“I want to work to help pay the rent,” Kevin, age 10.

They see how their parents are struggling like the mother who earns a few coins by selling plastic bottles and who, with her family, lives in a house without a proper roof. When it rains, everything gets wet. Her biggest concern is protecting her children’s school bags.

As young children, they learned to keep quiet to protect their families from suspicious looks and embarrassing questions, lest they be separated from each other. Fatimata, whose blind parents struggled to earn a living, once told us:

“We often had nothing to eat. But despite everything, we went to school.

Our education was fed by our parents’ courage. Without them, we would never have been able to learn anything.” Children can see that their parents are exhausted. They know that, alone, no one can solve that many problems: “We have to support our parents!” says Alma. When implementing children’s rights, shouldn’t our main priority be taking seriously what holds a special place in their hearts?

All children know that no one can live alone, without friends, without someone who respects them. Some take action, such as the Tapori children who live in a large city where war has been raging for years. Their mission is to be “friends of the friendless”. They choose to visit others their age, former child soldiers whom everyone is afraid of. They make friends with refugee children from neighbouring countries who they know are alone or mistreated.

“A child is a child,” they say, “so why are some children set apart?”

Elsewhere, children are living on the streets, near markets. They have left their villages where the arid land can no longer feed everyone. While they are subjected to deprivation and violence of all kinds, they look after each other, protect the youngest, help each other, and ask us for books… When implementing children’s rights, shouldn’t we follow children into the world they want for the future?

In the street library, Eva is focused on drawing. She stops when she hears police sirens and looks troubled. So many parents in the neighbourhood are in prison. She goes back to concentrating on her drawing. When it is done, she bursts with joy and runs to show it to everyone, and everyone joins in with her laughter.

“I would like to be a light,” says Angelo who is repeating his first year of primary school, “because light shines. It’s beautiful and you can see it. I would like to be a light. That way, my head would be useful!”

When implementing children’s rights, shouldn’t we let every child’s light shine?

Around the world, children and young people are increasingly challenging us by demonstrating to call for an end to the destruction of living things. They are urgently calling for action to slow down climate change so that life on earth can continue.

Isn’t it equally urgent that these young activists be able to connect with the children and their families who stand up to poverty in their daily lives? What are we doing to help them? Will they be able to count on our ability to unite, to share our experiences, our energy, our know-how to make progress in respecting nature and every last human being?

Some children are leading demonstrations while other children keep quiet about their dreams and everything they are undergoing. When implementing children’s rights, shouldn’t we be taking all children seriously? May we seek them out because we need them to create a better world for everyone.

Isabelle Pypaert Perrin

2018 - Statement by UN Secretary General António Guterres

Secretary-General's remarks at Commemoration of International Day for the Eradication of Poverty [as delivered]    

It is indeed a pleasure to be here today to observe the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty.

We have come a long way since the world first commemorated this Day twenty-five years ago. Nearly 1 billion people have been lifted out of poverty, thanks to political leadership, inclusive economic development and international cooperation.

However, too many are still being left behind. 

Ten per cent of the world’s population remain in extreme poverty. And in our world of plenty, more than 700 million people are unable to meet their basic daily needs. 

Armed conflicts hinder further progress in poverty eradication – and can quickly undermine many hard-won gains.

Discrimination and rising inequalities also pose major challenges. Women’s unequal access to opportunities has real impacts not just on their lives, but on families and communities as well. Youth, older people, indigenous peoples, people with disabilities and migrants are also disproportionately affected.

And every year, disasters push millions of people around the world into poverty. More than ever, we can see the urgency of climate action and efforts to build resilient societies.

The deprivations that people living in poverty endure every day remind us that there is a fundamental connection between eradicating extreme poverty and upholding the equal rights of all people. 

Ending extreme poverty is not a matter of charity, it is a question of justice. 

This year, as we celebrate the 70th anniversary of the landmark Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it is timely to recall the Declaration’s proclamation of “freedom from want” as being among the highest aspirations of the world’s people.

In adopting and now implementing the 2030 Agenda, the international community recommitted itself to this aspiration, as embodied in the first of the Sustainable Development Goals: to “end poverty in all its forms, everywhere”.

Poverty is not inevitable. It is not a natural state of being or occurrence. It is most often the outcome of choices that societies have made.

Today we must choose to build a fair globalization that creates opportunities for all.

Inclusive growth supported by economic and social policies that empower people and provide equal opportunities make the difference.

We need policies that create a strong enabling economic environment and that promote access to education, health services, decent work and social protection to everybody.

And we need policies that dismantle barriers that contribute to the perpetuation of poverty.

This International Day also honours the struggles and activism of people living in poverty.  We must do more to listen to them, address the indignities they face and tackle the power structures that prevent their inclusion in society.  

Let us join hands to end poverty, advance human rights and uphold the core pledge of the 2030 Agenda: to leave no one behind.

Thank you very much.


See video
Video: Commemoration at the United Nations Headquarters
Forum on Overcoming Extreme Poverty

2017 Commit to a Profound Transformation of Our Societies

Message from Mr. Cassam Uteem, President ATD Fourth World International, on the occasion of the World Day to Overcome Extreme Poverty on 17 October 2017.

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the recognition by the UN of the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty.

This international day originated on 17 October 1987 when 100,000 people gathered on the Plaza of Human Rights and Liberties in Paris, at the very place where the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was signed in 1948. These people were responding to the call of Joseph Wresinski, founder of ATD Fourth World and whose 100th anniversary we are celebrating this year. He had experienced great poverty, hunger, cold, and persistent want, but also the contempt and condescension in which we are obliged to live when we depend on the generosity of others.

The ATD Fourth World Movement, which he founded in 1957 with families living in extreme poverty in the Paris region, is not an association offering charitable assistance to people in poverty. It is a Movement in which people in poverty can gather, affirm, and strengthen their courage, fight for the recognition of their dignity, their right to exist, to be human beings among other human beings; a Movement where men and women from all walks of life and of all origins can come together, meet, and learn together how to overcome the most extreme forms of poverty.

Over the following 30 years, families facing extreme poverty around the world have identified with this approach, and have been joined by countless members of the public in their quest for justice and peace.

17 October 1987 marks a turning point in the history of the struggle against poverty, a turning point in the history of mankind and its aspiration to “…a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want”, as proclaimed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

This International Day for the Eradication of Poverty is not another call for generosity. Rather, it marks an important break in relation to our way of thinking about solidarity; it is a call for a profound transformation of our societies.

The first break which this Day points us towards is contained in the text engraved on the Plaza of Human Rights and Liberties in Trocadéro: “Wherever men and women are condemned to live in extreme poverty, human rights are violated. To come together to ensure that these rights be respected is our solemn duty. ” There is here the assertion that extreme poverty is a violation of Human Rights, and that any policy to fight against poverty must therefore be a policy of access to fundamental rights for all.

The second break is also engraved in the marble stone in Trocadero: “On 17 October 1987, defenders of Human Rights from every continent gathered here…” Through this Day, families in situations of poverty have asserted themselves as defenders of Human Rights. If the most disadvantaged are no longer guilty and not only the victims of poverty; if they are the first defenders of Human Rights, then it is not only a matter of helping them, let alone controlling or educating them. It is the challenge of understanding their struggles and joining them in their efforts. Their participation, their intelligence and their voices are henceforth indispensable.

Over the past 30 years, this international Day that is now marked in more than 50 countries has greatly contributed to increasingly placing the fight against poverty in terms of access to Human Rights, as underlined by the United Nations Guiding Principles on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights.

For 30 years, this Day has been contributing greatly to a very important change of perspective for the international community, and therefore for all our countries, which have come to realise that it is not only a matter of reducing poverty, but of promoting economic, social and environmental development which sets itself an absolute imperative, that of abandoning no one, of leaving behind no one, as stated in the UN Sustainable Development Goals adopted in 2015.

For our societies to be truly sustainable, they require a vibrant and strong civil society. And even in countries where this civil society is alive and strong, the voice of the poorest is singularly absent.

Over the past 30 years, the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty has gradually contributed to the emergence of this previously absent partner, without whom justice, peace and fraternity will remain inaccessible to everyone.

It is the way forward, well beyond charitable assistance, a path into the future on which each of us is called to engage.

M. Cassam Uteem, Président du Mouvement international ATD Quart Monde

2017 - Justice and love finally be reconciled

Message from Isabelle Pypaert Perrin, director general of ATD Fourth World, on the World Day for Overcoming Poverty, 17 October 2017

What does life mean if people around us are dying, unnoticed?

What does life mean if children deny themselves the right to dream, even saying, “I never dream. What's the point? My dreams won't come true anyway”?

What does life mean when mothers are forced to ask themselves, “If I let social workers take my unborn child into care, as they want to, will they still let me raise my older child? Or will they take him away from me as well?”

What does life mean when young people are excluded from social and educational programs because they make other people afraid, or because everybody has given up on them and their families?

What does life mean when advocates speak up for justice in the name of people living in poverty, but without a real encounter with them?

And what did life mean for Joseph Wresinski, the boy living in deep poverty who grew up to bring everyone together on 17 October thirty years ago today?

On that day, he bore witness to “millions of children, women, and fathers who have died from misery and hunger”, to “the poor of all times, still poor today, forever on the road, fleeing from place to place, despised and disgraced”, and to “the millions of young people who have no reason to believe or even to exist, and who vainly search for a future in this senseless world.”

This world in which the frantic quest for security by those who have a lot deepens the insecurity of those who have nothing!

Following his lead, men and women, children and young people all around the world, like us today,

have refused to accept guilt, have rejected the notion that extreme poverty is inevitable,

and have refused to let their minds go to waste.

They dare to reach out to people from another world, who were educated and raised differently.

They have shown that, when hearts, hands, and minds are open, bridging gaps is possible after all:

gaps between neighbourhoods where people are scared and those where people live over-protected in ivory towers,

gaps between people feeling desperately useless without work and people who are constantly overworked,

gaps between the least powerful and the most powerful people in the world.

Together, people from all walks of life meet to defend the rights of those who have nowhere to go except to places where no one would want to raise their children.

By coming together in this unique way, all these people discover how to take pride in recognising one another as part of the same human race, all capable of changing in ways they never before imagined.

They are igniting hope that the world can be freed from poverty,

and hope of finding still more ways to come together.

In this way, they have responded to Wresinski's questions

at the gathering of defenders of human rights on 17 October 1987,

questions they invite each of us to respond to again today:

“What about you? Are you going to pave the way for a new world

where justice will prevail over profit and exploitation,

where peace will prevail over war,

where justice and love can finally be reconciled?”

Yes, it is for us to continue daring to meet together like this, on the 17 October and every day.

Isabelle Pypaert Perrin - director general of ATD Fourth World

2017 Message of Pope Francis for 17 October

Pope Francis concluded his speech on the occasion of the Angelus of Sunday, October 15 with these words:

“I would like to remind everyone that tomorrow is the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty.

Extreme poverty is not inevitable.

It is generated by factors that need to be recognized and resisted,

so that we may honor the dignity of so many of our brothers and sisters, as we honor sainthood.”

“Ricordo anche che dopodomani ricorrera to the Giornata del rifiuto della

miseria. The miseria non è una fatalità: ha delle cause che vanno

riconosciute e rimosse, per onorare the dignità di tanti fratelli e

sorelle, sull’esempio dei santi.”

Pope Francis