Special 17 October 2020

October 17 is the World Day for Overcoming Extreme Poverty. It has been commemorated since 1987, the year when, at the call of Joseph Wresinski, thousands of people from all walks of life gathered at the Plaza of Liberties and Human Rights in Paris, to affirm that:

“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.”

In 1992, October 17 was recognized as an International Day by the United Nations. Since then, all over the world, people are mobilizing to recall publicly that we can put an end to extreme poverty. This day brings us together with people like Emma from Bolivia who said, last year: “We, the people living in poverty, have intelligence and knowledge of life and even if a lot of people ignore us, we struggle to make our lives better.”

In 2020 a collective awareness is growing : we share the Earth and we all have to answer for the environmental impact of our actions. We also know that we all have a responsibility for enabling each person to live in dignity and to take part in this construction.

October 17 is therefore the opportunity for us to highlight the importance of : “Acting together to achieve social and environmental justice for all”

Our societies treat nature in the same way as they treat their poorest members. People in poverty have been exploited for generations, their strength is used and when it’s no longer of any use, it’s thrown on the scrap heap. In the same way, our natural resources are looted and polluted without anyone taking responsibility for their renewal. The way our societies treat people in extreme poverty is even more pernicious than the way nature is treated. Indeed, no-one can blame nature for its deterioration, whereas all too often people in poverty are accused of not wanting to get out of it. This fact gives us some perspective on the call of October 17 and its proposal to act and to transform our societies with and starting from the poorest people. These days it is necessary to take into account all the connections between social, economic and environmental justice to make this change happen.

“There is no environmental and social justice without an inclusive dialogue”. Crispin N, Democratic Republic of Congo.

“Its is vital that the Day of October 17 reinforces a global awareness : we have to take strong measures to respect the environment while respecting the rights of all and first of all of the most excluded people, who are the first victims of the deterioration of the environment”. Hugues C., France

“With this theme we are highlighting our will to consider poor people themselves as stakeholders in the decisions concerning the environment and the use of natural resources.” Jean Bosco N., Concordia-Ineza Foundation, Rwanda.

“Acting for the environment is a priority for every community in the world, including ours. Acting in a sustainable way will allow vulnerable people and those on low incomes to improve their living conditions and therefore we will find the solutions to two problems which afflict us today: We want to organize workshops on sustainable architecture and learn how to build with recycled materials, putting into practice housing solutions which save natural resources, reduce environmental impact and thus reduce family spending.” David T., Oasis social Foundation, Colombia

“Technological and industrial inventions must not continue to destroy the environment and increase poverty in the population. The poorest people have fewer direct means to withstand what global warming imposes, yet they too have the right to live and breathe like any other person. Any technology that does not promise a better, more supportive, fairer world with a healthy environment for every living being is a sick technology”. Christian R, Burundi

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