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.


South Africa

Press statement: International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, 17 October 2016 - Issued by the Mandela Initiative

Press statement: International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, 17 October 2016

Issued by the Mandela Initiative , 16 October 2016

The International Day for the Eradication of Poverty will be observed across the world tomorrow, 17 October. This United Nations day, commemorated since 1993, is devoted to presenting and promoting concrete activities aimed at the eradication of poverty and destitution, which are necessary for building a sustainable future. This is undoubtedly a critical cause to place at the core of all efforts to contribute to South Africa’s growth.

The head of the Nelson Mandela Foundation, Sello Hatang, explains: “As our greatest challenge as a country, the need for sustainable broad-based growth is integral for stability and there lies a moral and ethical duty for those with privilege and power to use this to alter the unequal structures of power that underpin our system. In order to do this, our policy and endeavours must be based in fact as the consequences of placing rhetoric and populism before informed decision -making can be disastrous.”

The Nelson Mandela Foundation is a strategic partner of the Mandela Initiative, which is a multi-sector platform aimed at generating the necessary evidence and dialogue to inform strategies to overcome not only poverty, but also reduce inequality in South Africa. This is an important goal of the National Development Plan (the country’s blueprint for growth and development by 2030) but it requires a nuanced understanding of poverty and why inequalities prevail, says Murray Leibbrandt, the head the Poverty and Inequality Initiative of the University of Cape Town , which is also a Mandela Initiative partner.

“Such an understanding, which is assisted by research by the Mandela Initiative and others like the National Income Dynamics Study , for example, can form the basis of evidence -based policy-making that can help counteract the trends that entrench poverty and inequality.”

The Mandela Initiative, which started its work in 2012 under the name “Towards Carnegie3”, brings together academics, government, civil society and the private sector to collaborate in various ways with one goal in mind: to think creatively about effective action to realise the poverty and inequality reduction goals of the National Development Plan.

“At the heart of it is to do differently. What we have tried has not worked so we need to find a way to do differently”, explains Hatang. “It’s about creating a national conversation on poverty and inequality that looks to inform policy and develop suggestions for new policy where policy is lacking.”

The conversations facilitated by the Mandela Initiative take different forms. To ensure an empirical evidence base with relevance and value for policy -makers, it has seven research programmes which focus on five major areas that are critical to shift poverty and inequality: education, health, social cohesion, rural and urban renewal, and labour issues. The studies are headed by top academics who, with the exception of one, hold Research Chairs awarded by the South African Research Chair Initiative of the Department of Science and Technology and the National Research Foundation.

What makes the Mandela Initiative research approach unique is that it includes the participation of government policy -makers throughout the research process to ensure their input – and consideration and uptake of the findings at the end point.

A participatory approach is also at the core of the initiative’s action dialogues, which bring together experts from different sectors to workshop a particular problem or approach to address poverty and inequality, with a dominant focus on finding sustainable solutions and taking collective action. It is an approach designed to link up the academic evidence base with the “real life” experiences and work of civil society organisations and the private sector, and the policy development and implementation insights from government. In sum, it is a powerful approach to share, learn and act collectively to address the poverty and inequality challenges of South Africa.

Hatang elaborates: “The Mandela Initiative therefore create spaces where active knowledge transfer can take place but also to create safe spaces in which deep content and action dialogues can take place. Instead of existing in silos, the MI allows various spheres to interact and work toward sustainable solutions.”

The National Income Dynamic Study (NIDS), a longitudinal panel study of a nationally representative group of people and households since 2008, indicates that nearly half of the panel members are stuck in poverty, but that a lot of people move into and out of poverty over time. People living in rural areas were more likely to fall into poverty , while women were less likely to transition out of poverty.

As far as inequalities are concerned, the NIDS for example shows that, while today’s generation has

much higher levels of education than their parents and grandparents, their occupations and earnings generally match that of their parents closely, particularly at the top and bottom ends of the income distribution. The NIDS tracks and reflects not only income poverty, but multidimensional poverty, which is made up of several factors that constitute deprivation, such as poor health, education and living standards.

For more information on the Mandela Initiative, see: http://www.mandelainitiative.org.za/

Mandela Inititative

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

Message by Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO

“Building a sustainable future: let us unite to end poverty and discrimination”

This year, International Day for the Eradication of Poverty is especially relevant, at a time when the United Nations is adopting the new global agenda to achieve sustainable development by 2030. The target, set in 2000, of halving extreme poverty in the world by 2015 has been reached. Our mission now is to achieve the total eradication of poverty in all its forms throughout the world.

Poverty is a complex reality, but it is not inevitable. It is universal, impacting countries in the South and the North alike – but on every continent, it is women and girls who suffer the most. While further weakening those who are already affected, climate change, economic and financial crises and conflicts create new poor people in every society.

For UNESCO, the eradication of poverty is a cornerstone in the fight for human rights and human dignity. Fighting poverty in a sustainable manner requires providing everyone with the means to be autonomous and assert themselves as active agents throughout their own lives – harnessing the potential of education, science, culture and information. Quality education for all, the real possibility for everyone to participate in social transformations and cultural and scientific life – these are powerful levers for self-esteem and practical ways of creating jobs and revenue-generating activities from local expertise. By sharing the benefits of scientific research, we can improve crops and food security and ensure access to water as a global public good. Through freedom of expression, public debate and information sharing, we can enhance the social awareness and political commitment necessary to overcome this violence.

This is the thrust of UNESCO’s action. Human intelligence, creativity and talent are renewable resources par excellence, and we can invest more in them to define economic, social and cultural policies that allow us to eradicate poverty and ensure that everyone can exercise their full rights, with dignity and social justice.


Irina Bokova, Director General of UNESCO