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.



Learning From People Who Think Night and Day About Poverty

Message from the International Leadership Team of ATD Fourth World

for the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty

17 October 2014

Learning From People Who Think Night and Day About Poverty

For centuries, people around the world have built memorials to both suffering and heroism. We hold ceremonies to honor those who have endured injustice or died fighting it. Through such memorials and ceremonies, we remind ourselves of war, slavery, oppression, and genocide with the hope: "never again."

But when do we recall the suffering and injustice that extreme poverty inflicts on people whose resistance leaves no trace upon the earth? They are buried in unmarked graves. Their neighborhoods are erased from our maps. Their words are forgotten.

October 17, the World Day for Overcoming Poverty, is a time to commemorate both the oppression and the courage of people in extreme poverty. This day expresses hope for an end to the brutality and contempt inflicted on the most vulnerable people everywhere. Commemorating this day demonstrates our belief that these people, scorned and ignored, are in fact vitally important to our communities and our nations. It shows that, together, we want to put an end to discrimination and to build a better future.

Fatimata, from Burkina Faso, writes: "Beyond suffering, there is humiliation; that's the worst. Fr. Joseph Wresinski [founder of ATD Fourth World] was right to call for an end to humiliating hand-outs that crush human dignity. […] Even in the deepest poverty, a person needs to share with others what little he has. […] I wonder whether the well-known figures in the struggle against poverty are actually the ones overcoming poverty? There are so many projects, so many words and books, so many researchers — but, despite this, poverty persists. I believe that all these words are understood, from A to Z, but I wonder if we don't need to invent a new alphabet to reinvent our struggle?"

This question reflects the words engraved on the Commemorative Stone, inaugurated on October 17, 1987, calling for "homage to the victims of hunger, ignorance, and violence." This ignorance about lives lived in poverty is rarely acknowledged. Our world suffers from not seeing the intelligence and creativity of people in poverty. Historians, researchers, and journalists often write about poverty, while the people resisting it in their daily lives have little opportunity to share their own thoughts and understanding. On October 17, we want to recognize the knowledge acquired by people living in poverty.

Thérèse, in Senegal, says: "No one has a monopoly on knowledge. We each know different things. People talk about 'the poor this,' and 'the poor that.' But the poor are the ones who think night and day. Someone with no worries can lie down at night thinking only of sleep. But someone who doesn't know how to feed his family tomorrow keeps thinking, even when lying down at night. I think this means that we have to share all our thinking, and especially that of the poor."

Our world suffers from being unaware of the courageous risks people in poverty take for peace, just as much as it suffers from the ignorance of stereotypes. Jean in the United States says: "In Ferguson, Missouri, the media showed protests and looting after a young man was shot by the police. Why do the media not show the courage of low-income men who risked violence to protect their community from looting? It comes from their heart, it should be talked about too!"


All of us are connected by a shared determination to end poverty. So we must ask ourselves: what do we need to do to move forward? A man who works on a logging crew in France says: "There's a man who just started working here. He is having a hard time doing the job. Others are complaining about him. But I know he needs the job and the money. Without it, what would become of him? If I have to pick up some slack so he has a chance to learn the job, I'll do it."

This man talking about a new worker also needs his paycheck. His determination to increase his own physically challenging work to make sure that his colleague will not be out of a job calls to mind similar efforts. In many communities, people of all backgrounds go out of their way to build a sense of community with others who desperately need decent work, decent housing, and decent schooling — or who simply need to be welcomed as neighbors, colleagues, and friends. People who have had to struggle to make ends meet at one time or another often choose to work in services where they can help others.

October 17 is a time to recognize all those who take risks and who make tremendous efforts to overcome poverty: the logger quoted above, for example; a teacher taking extra time to support a child who has missed many classes; or low-income housing residents who paint over graffiti that humiliates a newly arrived family.

These actions show what it means to muster energy to fight poverty every day. They move us all forward. To build a world of peace and respect, we all need to learn from these actions and many other new approaches for defying poverty. Together we are already inventing "a new alphabet" to help us understand our past and shape a better future.

Isabelle Pypaert Perrin,

Director General

Isabelle Pypaert Perrin, pour la Délégation générale

Message from the International Comittee for October 17

                                International Committee for October 17

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

Leave No One Behind: Think, Decide and Act Together Against Extreme Poverty

   People living in poverty know from experience that it is only when we work together that we are able to transform our lives and communities in order to build a more sustainable and equitable world for everyone.

   Without genuine social inclusion, nothing will change.

   Therefore, the new Sustainable Development Goals must ensure that the political commitments at the highest levels are translated into full and effective participation and implementation at the grass roots level. The theme of this year's commemoration of October 17, which was developed in close consultation with people living in poverty, captures their vision and aspirations for the new development environment in the post-2015 period.

   The call to “Leave no one behind” reminds us that we must eliminate discrimination, marginalisation and exclusion based on poverty, ethnic origin, gender, or economic and social status.

   It reminds us that we need to actively reach out to the most impoverished and excluded groups in our societies.

   It reminds us that our efforts to eradicate extreme poverty must uphold all human rights norms and standards, in keeping with the United Nations Guiding Principles on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights.

   The call “To think, decide and act together against extreme poverty” reminds us that people living in poverty must be full and equal partners in building a more just and sustainable world.

   In this partnership, we must be able to create and share knowledge together; decide on strategies, policies and actions together; and act on or implement these decisions together.For too long the experience, knowledge and wisdom that people living in poverty can contribute have been largely ignored.

   Policy makers and experts talk about poverty but poor people have to struggle against poverty every single day.

   Policy makers and experts are eager to propose solutions and strategies but they almost never consult with people in poverty about what works or doesn’t work, or what is required to overcome poverty.

   Corporations and celebrities are welcomed at public dialogues but people living in poverty have to struggle to be heard on the very issues that affect them directly.

   Indeed, we gather on October 17 each year to demonstrate our partnership and solidarity with people living in poverty; to acknowledge and learn from their efforts to overcome poverty; and to defend their human rights and dignity.

   Therefore, if we are truly committed to creating a just and sustainable world free of poverty, we must build and nurture a genuine partnership with people living in poverty.

We will leave no one behind.

Donald Lee
, President, International Committee for October 17

All Together in Dignity

                                       World Day for Overcoming Extreme Poverty

                                    17 October 2013: All Together in Dignity

Dear friends,

Just days ago, hundreds of men, women and children trying to immigrate to Europe drowned off the coast of Italy's Lampedusa Island. They were trying to escape hunger, a way of life with no way to earn a living, schools where their children could not learn. Starting with nothing but hope, they were searching for decent lives.

Divers, sailors and island residents who tried to save people were surprised by a simple detail. Many of the children who drowned were wearing new shoes. A purchase that symbolized their parents’ longing for a future of opportunity: our children will be clothed with dignity. We shall be welcomed in this new land with our heads held high.

Yesterday, near Paris, a group of families from Eastern Europe were evicted from their makeshift homes. They too tried to escape poverty in a new land. Now they are driven to wander, once again. Just a few miles away, there are French families who must leave their run-down homes that are slated for demolition. Are they undesirable tenants because they are poor? For whatever reason, the city is sending them “somewhere” else. But where is “somewhere”? How many millions of people like these—struggling to live decently, raise their children, and help out their neighbors—are continually ill treated, sent away, displaced, unwanted by anyone?

The heart-wrenching tragedy of poverty should call out to us with renewed urgency. More and more people are realizing that we need to work toward a world of justice and respect for every single person. But who exactly gets to have a say in shaping that future?

Will parents in forgotten neighborhoods have a say? Doña Maria, who lives in a neglected Latin American neighborhood, says: “I've always done everything I could to keep my children from going hungry, but it wasn't enough. No matter how hard we try, it is never enough when we're alone.” Her tears are anguished because her 16-year-old daughter just left home without a word. Doña Maria and similar parents constantly lose sleep in anxiety about their children.

How about young people living in poverty — will they have a say about the future? So many of them see their world as utterly confining, with no possibility for escape. They suffer because they have no way to share their dreams, talents and new ideas. In many parts of the world, even where life is torn apart by armed conflict and chronic shortages, we see young people trying to break through the walls that box them in, volunteering to read books with smaller children, sharing the best of themselves.

Will people lacking decent work have a say? Most economies condemn people at the bottom to long- term unemployment, dangerous and humiliating working conditions, and insecure jobs. These working conditions day after day grind down people as they struggle to support their families and cope with threatening environmental challenges.

On this October 17th, World Day for Overcoming Poverty, we must remember how important it is to move forward with the adults, young people and children who resist the violence of extreme poverty every day.

Only with them will it be possible for humanity to achieve its deepest aspiration: to live in peace, recognizing the dignity of every last person.

We will unite our efforts to reach out, as we have always done, to those whose contribution the world is missing, so that their courage, hopes and intelligence can help us all find ways to come together as part of one human community.

We will unite our efforts to continue sharing knowledge among all people, leaving no one out, and to work toward schools that will soar to be worthy of all children's minds and capacity for friendship.

We will unite our efforts to shape a people-centered and earth-friendly economic vision.  We seek an economy that values each and every person's mind and skills in decent jobs with living wages, and also protects our planet's biodiversity and natural resources. We dream of an economy built on sharing, solidarity and fairness.

We will unite our efforts to develop opportunities for people to meet and understand one another, and to use communication tools accessible to everyone, in ways that help sustain the growing solidarity of individuals and movements that are already moving the world forward.

These are our Common Ambitions for the years 2013-2017. They are detailed in the attached document. They have been chosen — with enthusiasm and confidence —by all of ATD Fourth World's members. These Common Ambitions are more than a strategic plan or vision statement. They are the dreams that inspire all of us — a hope that each of our members sustains that the world must and will become better than it is. Having found strength and hope amongst ourselves, we share these ambitions with you this Oct 17th. We offer them to people everywhere who dare — not only to dream but to act — to make today a better future.

With all our friendship,

Isabelle Pypaert Perrin

Director General

International Movement ATD Fourth World

Isabelle Perrin

Message from the UN Secretary General

                     MESSAGE FOR THE INTERNATIONAL DAY FOR                                 THE ERADICATION OF POVERTY

                                                17 October 2013

This year’s observance of the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty comes as the international community is pursuing twin objectives: intensifying efforts to reach the Millennium Development Goals, and formulating the next set of goals to guide our efforts after we reach the MDG target date of 2015. This post-2015 agenda must have poverty eradication as its highest priority and sustainable development at its core. After all, the only way to make poverty eradication irreversible is by putting the world on a sustainable development path.

We have much work ahead. While poverty levels have declined significantly, progress has been uneven. Our impressive achievement in cutting poverty by half should not blind us to the fact that more than 1.2 billion people still live in extreme poverty worldwide. Too many, especially women and girls, continue to be denied access to adequate health care and sanitation, quality education and decent housing. Too many young people lack jobs and the skills that respond to market demands. Rising inequality in many countries -- both rich and poor -- is fueling exclusion from economic, social and political spheres, and we know that the impacts of climate change and loss of biodiversity hit the poorest the hardest. All of this underpins the need for strong and responsive institutions.

We need to do more to listen and act for those whose voices often go unheard – people living in poverty, and in particular among them indigenous people, the elderly and those living with disabilities, the unemployed, migrants and minorities. We need to support them in their struggle to escape poverty and build better lives for themselves and their families.

If we are to realize the future we want for all, we must hear and heed the calls of the marginalized. For the last year, the UN has been doing just that by spearheading an unprecedented global conversation on the world people want. That dialogue must continue – and lead to the active and meaningful inclusion of people living in poverty -- as we chart a course to ending poverty everywhere.

Together, we can build a sustainable world of prosperity and peace, justice and equity – a life of dignity for all.

Mr Ban Ki-Moon

Secretary General

Mr Ban Ki-Moon

Message from the International Committee for October 17

                        Message for the World Day for Overcoming Extreme Poverty                      United Nations International Day for the Eradication of Poverty                                                            17th October 2013

The theme for the Commemoration this year – “Working together towards a world without discrimination: Building on the experience and knowledge of people in extreme poverty” – invites us to come together to put an end to the continuing divisions within our societies that are created and perpetuated by discrimination, especially that against people living in poverty.

It raises awareness of the active and passive discrimination that people face on a daily basis because of poverty, their marginalization in the political, economic, social and cultural spheres of their societies, and their lack of voice and representation in the conceptualisation, implementation and evaluation of policies and programmes that affect them directly and indirectly.

Discrimination against people living in poverty exacerbates the intensity of poverty. When such discrimination is systemic and pervasive, it stigmatizes, oppresses and socially excludes poor people who become the unseen, the unheard, and the disenfranchised.

All too often, people living in poverty are described as being irresponsible, uneducated, lazy, undeserving or a threat to public order or public security. Such characterization is not only factually wrong but it is stigmatizing and encourages discriminatory behaviour. It deepens the social divide and creates fear and distrust between poor people and the rest of society.

For people living in poverty, their human rights, dignity, participation, personal security, respect and due recognition of their efforts and contribution to society are just as important as their basic human needs such as health, water and sanitation, housing, education and training. As Father Joseph Wresinski wisely observed: "Every man carries within him the chance of Humanity".

It is arrogant and wrong to assume that people who lack material wealth, social status and political power also lack any knowledge or understanding of issues that could be useful to other people or to society.

Indeed, our current efforts to eradicate poverty have often overlooked or ignored their valuable knowledge based on the experience that people living in the worst conditions have accumulated, in some cases, over several generations. Therefore, it is important that we listen to the views and experiences of everyone, especially those living in extreme poverty, so that policies and programmes meant to eradicate poverty do not end up ill-adapted to the real needs, realities and expectations of the people they are supposed to be helping.

As the United Nations prepares its global development agenda for the post-2015 period, it is critical that people living in extreme poverty should be provided sufficient space and attention within the process so that they can elaborate on and add to existing knowledge about poverty, discrimination and human rights violations.

This means more than just allowing them to express their own experiences. It requires the creation of conditions that enable and encourage people living in poverty to contribute their individual and collective thoughts and analysis through full and active participation in the whole process of shaping the policies and programmes to eradicate poverty.

We must break the silence of extreme poverty. Let us build our post-2015 efforts to eradicate poverty with the contribution of the poorest so that together we can achieve a sustainable world where everyone lives with dignity and in peace with others.

Donald Lee

President, International Committee for October 17

Donald Lee