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.



2016 - Message from the Director General, International Movement ATD Fourth World

A New Humanity Without Poverty Will See the Light of Day

The very poor tell us over and over again that a human being's greatest misfortune is not to be hungry or unable to read, or even to be without work. The greatest misfortune of all is to know that you count for nothing, to the point where even your suffering is ignored. The worst blow of all is the contempt from your fellow citizens. For that contempt stands between a human being and his rights. It makes the world disdain what you are going through. It prevents you from being recognized as worthy and capable of taking on responsibility. The greatest misfortune of extreme poverty is that throughout your entire existence, you are like someone already dead."

— Joseph Wresinski, founder of ATD Fourth World

Present at the heart of this World Day for Overcoming Poverty are all the people who are facing the violence of extreme poverty. Marked by deprivation and contempt, many flee from place to place driven by armed conflict, drought, floods, and hunger. What support do they find?

International borders are closing ever more tightly; actual walls and invisible barriers divide neighbourhoods and communities; concerns for the security of some people end up condemning others to absolute insecurity. Seeking a new chance, many people risk their lives and disappear without a trace. Meanwhile, prejudice and fear shape public policies that treat human beings as suspects or as objects of charity, instead of as people who have rights and responsibilities. The world needs the experience of people whose lives are forged by courage and patience as they seek out pathways that will bridge divisions and lead toward peace.

“In deep poverty, you're just a shadow of yourself,” says a father in Germany. “To get out of poverty, you've got to jump over your own shadow. But that means that you need someone next to you who believes in you more than you believe in yourself.”

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ms. Louise explains: “With ATD, no one gives us money, but as a movement we find intelligence that helps us get out of poverty. Our goal is to find the person who is the most stuck in poverty. We see him and speak to him, saying, 'Stand up tall; you have the strength to do it.' I teach him to carry packages as I do, and we continue by working together. We manage so that no one is left behind. If we applied this approach everywhere, there would be no more poverty in the world tomorrow.”

The struggle continues for the dignity of all people to be recognized. In a run-down housing project in France, some neighbors came together to make peace by repainting a stairwell where one of them, distressed by too much suffering, had scrawled offensive graffiti. In Guatemala, parents in poverty found the strength to talk to teachers and to a government minister in order to obtain a national law banning fees for public schools.

Around the world, at the initiative of ATD Fourth World, thousands of people with first-hand experience of poverty have come together. Joined by public officials, grassroots community workers, and academics, they are merging their knowledge. Their work influenced the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals, in which heads of state made a commitment to ensure that development will “leave no one behind.”

This path to free humanity from poverty is a long one. But we are moving forward as long as we continue to believe in people, and as long as we come together to learn from those who cope with extreme poverty every day and who refuse to let anyone be scorned or humiliated. Joseph Wresinski set us on this path with determination. Like him, we continue to believe that “a new humanity without poverty will see the light of day because we want to make it happen.”

World Day for Overcoming Poverty – 17 October 2016


Isabelle Pypaert Perrin, Director General

2016 - Message from Mr Ban Ki-moon, Secretary General of the United Nations

Secretary-General's Message for 2016

We are approaching the end of the first year of implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  With its 17 Sustainable Development Goals, the 2030 Agenda is a universal vision for peace, prosperity and dignity for all people on a healthy planet.  Achieving this objective is inconceivable without fulfilling the mandate of SDG 1 to end poverty in all its forms.

Today, some 1 billion people live in extreme poverty and more than 800 million endure hunger and malnutrition.  But poverty is not simply measured by inadequate income.  It is manifested in restricted access to health, education and other essential services and, too often, by the denial or abuse of other fundamental human rights.  

Poverty is both a cause and consequence of marginalization and social exclusion.  To fulfil the promise of the 2030 Agenda to leave no one behind, we must address the humiliation and exclusion of people living in poverty.

Humiliation and exclusion are powerful drivers of social unrest and, in extreme cases, the violent extremism that is troubling so many parts of our world.  But, in most instances, people living in poverty respond to these societal ills with stoic resilience as they work to escape the degrading reality of their daily lives.

The duty of all Governments and societies is to address systemic socio-economic inequalities and facilitate the engagement of all people living in extreme poverty so they can help themselves, their families and their communities to build a more equitable, sustainable and prosperous future for all. 

The message of today’s observance is “Moving from Humiliation and Exclusion to Participation: Ending Poverty in All its Forms”.  We must break down the walls of poverty and exclusion that plague so many people in every region of the world.  We must build inclusive societies that promote participation by all.  We must ensure the voices of all those living in poverty are heard.

On this International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, let us listen to and heed the voices of people living in poverty.  Let us commit to respect and defend the human rights of all people and end the humiliation and social exclusion that people living in poverty face every day by promoting their involvement in global efforts to end extreme poverty once and for all.

M. Ban Ki-moon, Secretary General of the United Nations

2016- Message from the International Committee for October 17


Message for the World Day for Overcoming Poverty & the United Nations International Day for the Eradication of Poverty

17th October 2016

“The worst thing about living in extreme poverty is the contempt, that they treat you like you are worthless, that they look at you with disgust and fear and that they even treat you like an enemy. We and our children experience this every day, and it hurts us, humiliates us and makes us live in fear and shame.”

These are the moving words of an activist describing the humiliation and exclusion experienced by her and many other people who live in poverty.

Her words remind us that humiliation and exclusion is pervasive among the homeless and people living in poverty. When people are treated in a derogatory or demeaning manner, they experience feelings of lowered self-worth or self-esteem or even a loss of pride.

Humiliation experienced by people living in poverty unfairly defines them as the weaker or less important party in an unequal power relationship. They feel humiliated when they feel they are forced to ‘beg’ for help from officials who are providing social assistance, or they have to endure rude, demeaning, condescending or judgemental behaviour on the part of others.

Often persons who feel humiliated are ashamed to appear in public and, therefore, are socially excluded and unable to freely participate in the economic, social, cultural and political life of their community.

The theme of the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty this year is “Moving from humiliation and exclusion to participation: Ending poverty in all its forms” and it reminds us that persistent poverty is a denial of human rights and that its eradication takes more than just improving the material well-being of people living in poverty.

Of course, improving the material well-being of people should form the foundation of our efforts to end poverty and, in particular, extreme poverty everywhere.

However, we must not forget that poverty is invariably closely intertwined with humiliation and exclusion. So long as people living in poverty continue to suffer discrimination, humiliation and exclusion, their fundamental human rights will continue to be abused and their access to basic needs will be limited.

We are encouraged by the declaration in the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda “to end poverty in all its forms everywhere” because it explicitly recognizes that people living in poverty suffer from more than just a lack of income. When the pledge by the United Nations that “no one will be left behind” is effectively implemented it can create the conditions for building peaceful and inclusive societies.

This requires transformational change that promotes society-wide respect and appreciation for the important and valuable social, economic, cultural and political contributions of people living in poverty.

This means transformational change that will ensure the full and effective participation of people living in poverty, particularly in the decisions that affect their lives and communities.

Together we can end humiliation and exclusion.

Together we can end poverty everywhere.

Donald Lee

President, International Committee for October 17

12, rue Pasteur F-95480 Pierrelaye, France

international [dot] committee [at] oct17 [dot] org

Donald Lee

Press release on the World Day to Overcome Extreme Poverty

Dear friends, partners,

Please find attached our press release on the World Day to Overcome Extreme Poverty, which will be celebrated tomorrow in the world. We would appreciate it if you could kindly share it in your respective networks. This press release is also a very important tool to promote our petition on the "Peace by another way" initiated by Prof. Albert Tevoedjre. To recall, the petition can be signed through our site www.cipina.org

Yours sincerely.

M. Tidiane DIOUWARA Directeur Ambassadeur de la Paix Conseiller diplomatique

Association CIPINA

International Day for the Eradication of Poverty - 2016

Click on the link to listen to the President's speech:


Táim thar a bheith sásta a bheith libh inniu ar an lá thábhachtach seo - lá ina thagann daoine le chéile, in áiteanna ar fud na cruinne, chun seasamh i ndlúthpháirtíocht le bhaill uile ár bpobal Domhanda atá ag fulaingt i mbochtanacht.

[I am very pleased to have the opportunity to join you all on this important day when people come together, in venues across the world, to stand in solidarity with all those members of our global community who live in poverty.]

May I thank ATD Fourth World-Ireland for their invitation to address you on this commemoration today, and all of you for the very warm welcome you have extended to me here this morning.

2016 is, of course, the centenary of the birth of Joseph Wresinski, the founder of ATD Fourth World. ATD, as you know, stands for ‘All Together in Dignity’ while the term Fourth World is typically used to indicate and describe the most poverty stricken and economically troubled regions of nations within the Third World, nations often excluded from society. The purpose of ATD Fourth World is, therefore, to stand together in dignity with some of the most excluded people in the world.

Founded by Fr Joseph Wresinski when he was sent as chaplain to 250 families placed in an emergency housing camp in Noisy-le-Grand, near Paris its foundations are truly rooted in a spirit of solidarity and collectivism. His words:

"The families in that camp have inspired everything I have undertaken for their liberation. They took hold of me, they lived within me, they carried me forward, they pushed me to found the Movement with them"

speak movingly of the great unity and commonality which saw an initiative that started as the distribution of food and old clothes to the poor, become an organisation that works in partnership with communities across the world to end the exclusion and injustice of persistent poverty. Joseph Wresinski was a man whose compassion, vision and great spirit of humanity should continue to inspire us today.

He grew up in poverty and experienced, at first hand, the exclusion, marginalisation and daily humiliation, the náire, that goes hand in hand with a life lived below the bread line. He was a man acutely aware, not only of the great physical deprivations suffered by those who are poor and vulnerable, but also of the grinding everyday demoralisation and disempowerment which permeates the lives of the impoverished and disadvantaged in our communities.

Today marks the thirtieth occasion on which people have gathered around the world to observe the UN International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. Today also marks the first gathering to take place in the time-frame of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (2016-2030) which has as its first goal: End Poverty in all its forms everywhere.

As President I have spoken before of how critical it is that we look beyond the aim of alleviating poverty, even beyond eliminating extreme poverty; of the importance of broadening these aims and seeking to eliminate poverty in all its forms and to address issues such as needless and avoidable early mortality and morbidity, the elimination of diseases, and the many other factors which so impoverish the lives of citizens across the world.

John Weeks, in his The Economics of the 1% has offered, as an appropriate definition of economics:

the study of the causes of the underutilisation of resources in a market society, and the policies to eliminate that resource waste for the general welfare'.

It is a definition which calls on us to seek out and come to understand the sources of societal inequalities, if we are truly work for the eradication of poverty across the globe.

The new Sustainable Development Goals recognise the need for a redefinition of the very notion of “development".  They signify an invitation to a crucial advance in multilateral diplomacy, in their being universal, in their applying to all countries, and no longer primarily to those labelled ‘developing’ or ‘poor’.

The new 2030 Agenda provides a comprehensive blueprint for an integrated continuum of action at international and national levels, stretching from the necessary response to emergency situations in the short term, to the need to empower vulnerable communities in the long-term.

If we are to eliminate global hunger we must not simply seek to  respond to immediate needs, but must meet the obligation that is involved in creating the capacity, in different circumstances and cultures, of our fellow global citizens in achieving food sufficiency. There is a clear distinction between an immediate response to famine and hunger that provides essential food, even nutrition, and the creation, or protection, of the capacity to produce food. What is required is a holistic approach to issues of famine, global hunger, poverty, nutrition and food production.

It is appropriate therefore that, during this important year, the UN  International Day for the Eradication of Poverty has asked us to focus on the theme of “Moving from humiliation and exclusion to participation: Ending poverty in all its forms” .

Every day, around the world, human beings living in poverty are denied the basic human dignities that so many of us take for granted. Basic livelihoods are casually removed by government brokered land deals with large international corporations; women are economically marginalised or denied the education that is key to their empowerment; entire groups are neglected or discriminated against based on their ethnicity or religious beliefs.

A denial of basic human rights to those who live below the poverty line is not, of course, limited to any particular part of the world.    Even in countries with developed economies and advanced technological infrastructures there are those who are left behind; discriminated against, isolated, insulted, stereotyped, and made objects of condescension by fellow members of society who, deliberately or unthinkingly, dehumanise and further impoverish the lives of those struggling with chronic poverty. Let us also not forget the many ways in which societies create a culture of dependency forgetting that truly effective compassion means striving for human flourishing and seeking the conditions that make it possible.

Poverty is, and always has been, a multidimensional problem.  It is a complex issue to define. However, the ways in which we define poverty are critical to how we structure political, policy and academic discourse and the fuller debate on both its definition or impact and the challenges we face in eradicating poverty from our societies.

Those who live in poverty speak of the isolation, shame, and humiliation they perceive as having been inflicted on them by society and of how such treatment as they experience is a key factor in their lived experiences of suffering. Until recently, however, intrinsic human emotions such as lowered or damaged self-esteem have been the missing dimensions in poverty analysis and research. But such dimensions are an essential part of the analysis if we are to understand the different types and intensities of poverty that impact on wellbeing and quality of life, their many layers and dimensions, and how they interact and interconnect, and look for explanations and effective solutions.

The introduction of a Global Multidimensional Poverty Index in 2010 was a welcome development, allowing for the measurement of the non-monetary deprivations which, combined with lack of economic capacity, define chronic poverty in over one hundred developing countries across the world.

Such non-monetary indicators have also been increasingly used in individual European countries, as well as at European Union level, in measuring poverty and exclusion -  allowing for a greater understanding of the stark realities of the experience of poverty and the many ways in which it can diminish and limit the lives of its sufferers.

Despite the development of more comprehensive indicators of poverty, many in society continue to view poverty as a one dimensional problem which can be measured in purely monetary terms. Today, however, we are asked to remember its multi-dimensional nature; to look closely into the deep and quiet corners of those lives deprived of a right to participate at all levels of society, and to reflect on the long inter-generational shadows consistent poverty can throw across individual families.

Historically, societies have often been condemnatory of those in poverty and at times they have branded or punished poor people as idle, criminal or disruptive. People living in poverty were subjected to abuses of power and to policies that deprived them of their autonomy; were categorised as undeserving; and were often segregated from society and banished to workhouses or other institutions designed to morally remedy the sin of being poor.

It is both disheartening and worrying to realise that in Ireland, as in so many other parts of the world, shame continues to be one of the most consistently reported characteristics amongst people experiencing poverty. It is a feeling reinforced daily in a society where the spoken and unspoken attitudes of fellow citizens so often fall short of the common humanity that is a critical component of a truly functioning society.

Professor Robert Walker, in his book The Shame of Poverty, wrote that:

"If a society creates the illusion of meritocracy – that you get what you deserve, that the harder you work, the richer and more valuable to society you become, it suggests that the opposite is also true – that it is shameful to be poor, and that poverty is self-inflicted."

We are, it would seem, living in a time when the increasing spread of extreme individualism has led to the erroneous fiction that poverty is a sign of a personal failure, that it has somehow been ‘deserved’. However, poverty and its associated suffering is never deserved.

Here in Ireland people with disabilities experience high levels of consistent poverty and are twice as likely to live below the poverty line as the rest of the population; almost one in five children live in households with incomes below the poverty line; 18% of adults living in poverty are in some form of employment, while more than 57% of those in poverty are retired, students, people in caring roles, people who are ill or people with a disability.

Behind those statistics are, of course, many personal stories of misfortune, unemployment, mistakes, regret, lost opportunity and sometimes abuse, neglect, addiction or illness. These are human stories; the stories of our fellow citizens who have, through circumstance, found themselves living in insecure and difficult situations.

There can be no doubt that how a society treats its more vulnerable citizens, how it deals with helping people into work and protecting those unable to work, is a critical reflection of its moral core. A society that creates a culture of suspicion or hostility towards those living below the poverty line; or that patronises and infantilises them; or that fails to view its citizens living in poverty as individual people with individual problems, preferring to dismiss them as homogenous members of an inadequate underclass, cannot easily lay claim to being part of a functioning democracy.

Earlier we listened to testimonies describing the different dimensions and experiences of poverty in Ireland. Those who gave those testimonies come here today as representatives of the seven hundred and fifty thousand people in Ireland who live in poverty, lacking the economic capacity to live lives defined as fit for humans within our society. Listening to those testimonies should be a stark reminder of the many ways our society can inflict, often through choosing not to know or care, unnecessary hurt or pain on fellow citizens who struggle every day with the challenges of poverty.

They are testimonies permeated by great courage, willpower and a determination to improve the landscape for fellow citizens experiencing poverty. They are generous and brave testimonies delivered by citizens of whom we can be very proud indeed.

True citizenship must be based on equality and the accordance of equal value to every citizen, including a basic level of rights and participation.  There can be no room, in such a vision of citizenship, for the prevention of full participation due to poverty and discrimination.

There are challenges too to our administrative systems.  When people living in poverty are treated as numerical units or administrative cases; when they are forced to jump multiple and difficult hurdles in order to claim financial benefits to which they are entitled; too many occasions when they are required to navigate their way around overly complicated procedures and layers of red tape in order to avail of vital services, we insult and demean those amongst us who are guilty of nothing except living, day in day out, below the poverty line.

When a citizen experiencing poverty is not enabled to exercise their voice, or to claim their rights and entitlements, not empowered to enter into informed dialogue about decisions which affect their lives, rendered unable to defend themselves or to assert their opinion or to speak up and object when they feel their rights are being violated or ignored, or obstructed from access to an education that would open up windows of opportunity, they have been failed by a society that claims to operate on the principles of a democratic republic.

When strangers who arrive on our shores in need or difficulty are left in the uncertain limbo of direct provision for anything up to ten years, I am ashamed. When homeless families are forced to live in one hotel room devoid of cooking facilities, and subjected to a dehumanising set of rules and conditions; when others without a roof over their head are condemned to wander the streets by day, and desperately seek space in homeless shelters by night, we as a nation are failing to display the necessary spirit of humanity on which a democracy should be built.

On this important day, when we come together in solidarity with the poor across the world, let us consider how we treat those amongst us who are in difficulty or in need.  Let us pledge to strive to ensure that the common good will always be placed above narrow interests.  Let us also consider the many ways in which we can enable those living in poverty to make that life changing move from humiliation and exclusion to full participation in their society and their communities; a participation which will allow their voices to be heard and their possibilities to be realised.

We must, as a nation, continue to strive to deepen our understanding of poverty in all its forms and dimensions, ensuring that our policies focus on all aspects of poverty, including the shame, humiliation and social exclusion that so negatively impacts on the human dignity of citizens living in poverty.

Mar shaoránaigh de Dhomhain ina mbraithimid uile ar a chéile, caithfimid glacadh lenár ndualgaisí guth a thabhairt do na prionsabail sin ar mhór linn a fheiceáil i gceartlár ár dtoghchaí le chéile, agus gníomh a dhéanamh chun an fís sin a bhaint amach.

[We must also, as citizens of an interdependent world accept our obligations and duties to join forces across the globe in voicing and actioning the values we wish to see placed at the heart of our collective and global future.]

In conclusion, may I thank you sincerely for inviting me to attend this commemoration, to hear your enlightening stories and experiences, and to join you in expressing friendship and solidarity with people who live with poverty and social exclusion every day of the year in Dublin, in Ireland, in Europe and around the world.   Go raibh míle maith agaibh go léir.

United Nations End Poverty Day Gathering
Michael D. Higgins, President of Ireland