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.


United States

17 October 2015 - ATD Fourth World Member's Statement - New York


In the Fourth World Movement in New York, we’ve been preparing the following statement for a few months. We come from all walks of life: some of us are experiencing hardship, some of us aren’t but have chosen to commit themselves alongside those who are. To work on this

message, we’ve read some statements made by members of our Movement in Ireland, the Republic of Mauritius, and the Philippines. We also watched some videos from Brazil, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. All of them were related to the theme of this year’s October 17: “Building a sustainable future: Coming together to end poverty and discrimination.” Through this process, we’ve discovered together how what we learned about poverty abroad resonates with our own lives and the struggles we face here.

1/ To build a sustainable future, our struggle must be recognized.

In a video from Latin America, a man explains: “We are making a better planet because we take tons of rubbish out of the dump. For most people, those things are worthless. But for us, as well as an income, we are doing something for our families and children, for those coming after us. We’re leaving a better planet.”

For us in New York City, we realized that people living in poverty are cleaning up the planet for us in a lot of places, but they are not only building their future — they are building OUR future.

An Irish mother, Noleen, says: “Persistent poverty is the world we were born into. It’s a hard feeling not to be able to climb up the ladder little by little. It’s hard to feel trapped and dependent.”

For us, “everybody who wakes up in the morning has to hustle for a dollar. We just have to hustle more. We are the last ones to get our hand-outs. We got to fight for every dime.” When you are poor, your life, your kids’ life, your family life is not your choice.

2/ To build a sustainable future, our experience and knowledge must be taken into


People in Mauritius Island report: “There is this non-profit that decided to offer us training. It is a good idea but the point is ‘Is this training a priority for us just now?’ They would not be able to answer this question because before they wrote the project and raised funds to see it through, they did not come to consult us about it. This project was a good project to start with — it was meant to help us overcome our difficulties — but it became a project that divides our community and pushes us to do something that we cannot do at the present time; above all, it has belittled our dignity.”

In this situation, the non-profit staff didn’t talk to the community; they tried to make their own decision without involving the people there. If they had talked to a community board first, the community would have known that its members have a say in what happens, that they had been part of the decision-making process.

Also, we want to say that we are not poor, we are rich every day even if we are poor every minute, because our mind is thinking, “How am I going to feed my family today?’’ But when we can go home, we feel good. As the Pope’s message at the Post-2015 Summit reminded us:

“Absolute minimum has three names: lodging, labor, and land”. To have a key to a house in our hand means we can start again. There’s sustainability because there is a sense of ownership.

3/ To build a sustainable future, our rights must be recognized.

In a video from Latin America, a woman says: “I have my dignity. I don’t wait for other people’s crumbs, when as a human being, I can provide for myself, for my home, for my family.” During the Interactive Dialogue: Ending Poverty and Hunger at the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit 2015, the Head of State of Mali said, "When people give you their crumbs, they don't acknowledge your dignity."

It seems as though the crumbs are not really to insult you, but to subliminally put you in your place. This is what you’re worth. It holds you down. People struggling to feed their families don’t wait around to be given what they are entitled to.

But if they are cleaning junk, they are identified with junk – even if they are doing what they can to make a better living. None of us lets poverty eat at us. We are all trying to make our way out of it. “Forget those crumbs; we’re going to get cake or cornbread.”

One of us said: “I will not settle for less because I am not less. I will work hard for what I want and I will not take what is decided for me. I will earn what I deserve.” We don’t accept pity because we are bigger and better than that. We don’t wait for charity.

Still in Latin America, a woman said: “If the Government really wanted, we could accept a piece of land from them which has basic services, that is affordable and pay instalments on it according to what we can afford”.

That’s like the American Dream. You want to own a home but it is not affordable, especially for poor people – even if we work hard all our life. Cookies can break into crumbs, but crumbs don’t turn into cookies.

We’ve heard so many things, but people have to keep their promises. Most of the time, it’s like telling someone who’s homeless, “I’ll go get you food,” and then you leave and you don’t come back. So we rely on each other to build things up from the ground with sweat equity.

4/ What does a sustainable future means for us?

A woman from Guatemala said, "We have to demand that our poverty is not used to manipulate us. We are not only people to give charity to, but people whose opinion has to be sought."

Nobody ever wants to feel like they’re being used, and you never want someone to think that you’re using them. A sustainable future, it’s a give and take. A sustainable life is us, giving and receiving.

It’s also a big thing when people think that poor people are using the system. But people really need help. What we all need for a sustainable environment is not to feel guilty when we need help and always for there to be someone who is willing to help us, whether it is in the

community or the government or your best friend. We’re asking because we need it, not because we want to take it from you.

We also believe that if you are on your own, you don’t really have that many chances. The first thing that hurts us is being divided. Everybody is separating, but everybody has to play a part to come together. Police in some neighborhoods have forbidden people to stay on the stoop.

The fact that people were on the stoop was a big part of the community. They were looking out for one another’s children, and they were helping to prevent crime, because that way everybody knew what was happening on the block. When the police prevent people from staying on the stoop, it does a lot of damage to the sense of community.

If we respect one another, if we can see that we’re all human beings, that we’re the same species, that black and white is not a different set of species — that’s why it’s called the human race. We’re all one. If we respect one another, we could come to terms with all of our problems and fix them. But there’s always this separation: “I’m better than you," or "I make more money than you.”

A sustainable future is all about breaking barriers.

One of our young people said: “My school is literally garbage. People ask me: 'Why do you stay there?' Because that’s my school. I love and respect my teachers. It’s another issue when your teachers barely make any money. They've got their own families that they barely see, and they’re spending their paycheck to teach me something. I feel offended by this. How are they

going to take care of themselves? It doesn’t make any sense.”

For us, a sustainable future is for people to be able to live as they want, with access to resources.

Resources like a job, but also water, which is all we have in the planet that we cannot live without. Also, for us a sustainable future is to educate the children with respect to what they need to know, with their own culture and their own being. You make a sustainable future if

you respect your roots and bring up your children in this way. A sustainable future is a world where we have concern for others. One parent says, “I want my children to take care of other people,” but sometimes, we have to fight like hell to keep our children with us.

Another parent said, “To fulfill my goals as a mother, I watched my kids grow up and did the best I could for them. When it comes to education, I stand behind them.” Sometimes we succeed in changing things, sometimes we don’t. It’s a part of life but we still have to fight.

Noleen, from Ireland told us: “What keeps me going day after day? I suppose it’s what is inside, really: it’s self-pride, it’s inner strength, it’s knowing that one day our voice will have to be heard.”

International Day for the Eradication of Poverty 2015
Fourth World Movement Members's statement - New York

2015 - 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 2015

The observance of the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty this year is very significant because it comes so soon after the launch of the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. We welcome the declaration by all countries in the 2030 Agenda that they are “determined to end poverty and hunger, in all their forms and dimensions” as well as their pledge that “no one will be left behind”.

We know only too well that when poverty is measured only in terms of money, it diminishes the dignity of people living in poverty and their daily struggle to overcome poverty. It sidesteps the recognition of poverty as a denial of human rights or that poverty is complex and multi-­dimensional in nature.

And when global leaders in 2000 set out to halve the number of people living in extreme poverty, they effectively abandoned millions of men, women and children to struggle against poverty on their own. Some world leaders would like us to believe that we are the first generation that can put an end to poverty. This is misleading. Every preceding generation in modern history has had the capacity to end poverty; they just lacked the vision, compassion and political will to make it happen.

We must not repeat the missteps of the last 15 years. This time we must ensure we leave no one behind. The theme for the commemoration of the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty this year— “Building a sustainable future: Coming together to end poverty and discrimination” — reminds us how important it is to act together to eradicate extreme poverty and discrimination everywhere in order to build a sustainable future. People living in poverty know from first-­hand experience that poverty and discrimination are closely intertwined.

They have seen how discrimination affects people living in poverty by breeding an environment of inequality that limits access to their fundamental rights, basic needs and opportunities for economic and social advancement. They have experienced how such discrimination can both cause poverty and be a hurdle in overcoming poverty. We have seen how, even in countries where there was significant progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals, discrimination and inequalities have grown.

People living in poverty must be full and equal partners in building a just and sustainable future. Their full participation, particularly in the decisions that affect their lives and communities, must be at the centre of policies and strategies to build a sustainable future. Too often there has been token participation of people living in poverty and as a result their valuable knowledge and experience have been overlooked or discounted.

We must work together to guarantee that our planet can meet the needs of everyone – not only those of a privileged few – for this and future generations.

Donald Lee, President, International Committee for October 17

2014 UN International Day for the Eradication of Poverty

I would like to send by best wishes to all those taking part in the 2014 UN International Day for the Eradication of Poverty.

The theme for this year’s International Day is: Leave No One Behind: Think, Decide and Act Together Against Extreme Poverty. It is a theme which invites us, as global citizens, to work in unison to fight one of the greatest human rights violations of the 21st century - global hunger.

It is also a theme which reminds us that if we are to stand in solidarity with the world’s poor and marginalized, we must never allow silent indifference or thoughtless collusion to overcome our innate humanitarian instinct.

UN International Day for the Eradication of Poverty is a significant date on the global calendar. I thank you for ensuring it is a day when we, in Ireland, join together with citizens across the world in a spirit of shared humanity as we seek for sustainable solutions to marginalization and poverty.

Michael D. Higgins, President of Ireland

Dublin 17 October Community Gathering
Michael D. Higgins, President of Ireland

Address by Emily LOGAN, Chief Commissioner Designate for the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission Designate

Today is a unique and important event to highlight the effects of poverty and discrimination experienced by people in their daily lives. It’s a stark reminder that human dignity must always be preserved.

I’m here today representing the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission. It’s going to be a new public body that will be set up on the 1st November. And our job is to protect and promote human rights and equality here in Ireland and to ensure that the dignity and worth of each person is respected.

Poverty is a denial of human rights. Poverty denies people their human rights because it directly undermines their human dignity. If poverty and inequality that lead to it are tackled , then there’s a much better chance that the human rights of people experiencing poverty will be strengthened and better respected.

To ensure that no body is ever left behind it’s more important than ever that people in poverty themselves are seen as the first defenders of human rights. We need to hear their voices, and we need to hear their experiences. And to do that, as I believe Liam said earlier, how can we expect people to exercise their rights if they don’t know about their human rights. And that will be part of our job at the Commission which is to try and educate the public about human rights. Those testimonies today are proof that we should respect this voice and support people in the exercise of their own rights.

As we share in a spirit of humanity across the world let us never give up on the fight to seek solutions to marginalisation and poverty.

Dublin 17 October Community Gathering
Emily Logan

Let’s make the World Day for the Eradication of Extreme Poverty as a daily reference of action, of mobilization

October 17th

Let’s make the World Day for the Eradication of Extreme Poverty as a daily reference of action, of mobilization

It is unacceptable that everyday thousands of people, mostly children from one to five years, die of hunger, exclusion and abandonment while over 3 billion dollars are invested in weapons and military spending.

As Jean Ziegler says, "hunger is the most active and dreadful weapon of mass destruction."  

The time for silence is over. Now we can express ourselves freely. Let us join our voices to demand justice in favor of the victims, of those who survive in extremely precarious conditions.  

"Do not leave anyone behind”. Think, decide and act together against extreme poverty. All together with ATD Quart Monde, to relieve and heal the situation of many of our brothers.

Federico Mayor - Foundation Culture of Peace