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.



Let's not give up

Speech by Isabelle Pypaert Perrin at the commemoration of the World Day for the Eradication of Poverty organized by the UN.

Are we going to learn with those who live in the most extreme situations how to build a just world for all and who think of the generations to come? Those who live in extreme poverty are not only victims. They are also agents of change, actors of world construction, and often ignored. Yet, they are the ones who pay the most for the consequences of our failings. Our broken promises and the way we have taken the right to exploit the land and the human beings.

This week, I met families in a slum in the Paris region who live in unworthy conditions, like a billion inhabitants of the earth. Life is hard, their health is damaged, the links with others are constantly blocked. Children, for whom they continue to struggle, do not grow because of the lead in the soil. Those who live in poverty reveal to us a permanent human catastrophe and an ecological catastrophe. And they resist, they act, they take responsibilities that we ourselves do not. They take charge of their environment and seek to make life possible, as we have seen throughout this commemoration. Those who live in poverty go even further: in the most abandoned places on the planet, they take care of each other. They thus give substance to the ambition set by the international community when, in 2015, it broke with the discriminatory objective of wanting to halve the number of people living in extreme poverty in order to commit to leave no one behind, to reach the most distant, the most forgotten first.

In silence, everywhere in the world, people in poverty are the first to live out this ambition not to leave anyone behind. How are we going to make room for them in the halls of power where we think and work for the future? How are we going to make room for their experience and the knowledge they gain from it? I think of those homeless families, who have found refuge in polluted land, and who say: we will not leave here until a solution has been found for the most tired of us. They show us how all our programs, all our actions must be filled with concern and search for the most excluded, those who are still lacking, the most distant. Link participation and human commitment. We know parents who go to a health centre with their child who suffers from hunger and malnutrition. They feel such a reproachful look on them that shame scares them away and prevents them from accessing treatment.

On the other hand, when everything is thought out so that trust, respect and pride are created, it is quite different. It is important to include the participation of people in poverty in aid programs and how this aim is delivered. But we must go further. At the heart of all these programs, there must be men and women that are open and take the responsibly of reaching those in deepest poverty. Seeking the participation of those who are furthest from local community programs or dialogue and consultation. Since the onset of covid, we have seen caregivers all over the world mobilize in extraordinary ways to save lives. They went well beyond the call of duty. They stirred enthusiasm and that gave us confidence.

Extreme poverty is just as much a matter of life and death for those who experience it. Consequently, putting an end to it requires such a great mobilization, an unprecedented mobilization and very substantial human commitments, commitments that we must absolutely support. I would like to end by saying that despite the dark times the planet is going through, we can have hope: Those in poverty do not give up, they believe in tomorrow, they believe in their children, they believe in the human race even if they know all the faults and limits.

So, I would like to say to the young people who are working for a better planet, and who are right to do so: make alliances with those who resist poverty, because together you will bring about real changes and nothing will stop you.

See video
Isabelle Pypaert Perrin, déléguée générale d’ATD Quart Monde
United States

UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ message for World Day for Overcoming Poverty 2021

Poverty is a moral indictment of our times.  For the first time in two decades, extreme poverty is on the rise.  Last year, around 120 million people fell into poverty as the COVID-19 pandemic wreaked havoc on economies and societies.  A lopsided recovery is further deepening inequalities between the global North and South.  Solidarity is missing in action — just when we need it most. For example, vaccine inequality is allowing variants to develop and run wild, condemning the world to millions more deaths, and prolonging an economic slowdown that could cost trillions of dollars.  We must end this outrage, tackle debt distress and ensure recovery investment in countries with the greatest need. On this International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, we commit to “Building Forward Better”.  This requires a three-pronged approach to global recovery.  First, the recovery must be transformative — because we cannot go back to the endemic structural disadvantages and inequalities that perpetuated poverty even before the pandemic.  We need stronger political will and partnerships to achieve universal social protection by 2030 and invest in job re-skilling for the growing green economy.  And we must invest in quality jobs in the care economy, which will promote greater equality and ensure everyone receives the dignified care they deserve. Second, the recovery must be inclusive — because an uneven recovery is leaving much of humanity behind, increasing the vulnerability of already marginalized groups, and pushing the Sustainable Development Goals ever further out of reach.  The number of women in extreme poverty far outpaces that of men.  Even before the pandemic, the 22 richest men in the world had more wealth than all the women in Africa — and that gap has only grown.  We cannot recover with only half our potential.  Economic investments must target women entrepreneurs, provide greater formalization of the informal sector, focus on education, social protection, universal childcare, health care and decent work, as well as bridge the digital divide including its deep gender dimension. Third, the recovery must be sustainable — because we need to build a resilient, decarbonized and net-zero world.  Through it all, we need to listen far more to the views and guidance of people living in poverty, address indignities and dismantle barriers to inclusion in every society.

Today and every day, let us join hands to end poverty and create a world of justice, dignity and opportunity for all.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres
United States

Message for 17 th october 2021 by president, International Movement ATD Fourth World

Message for the World Day for Overcoming Poverty

Dear friends,

During this past year, we have seen the continuing spread of Covid-19 in most of our communities as more deadly and infectious variants have emerged.While the development of vaccines against Covid-19 has been an important step towards slowing the global pandemic, the distribution of the vaccine has been slow and obscenely inequitable.

More than three-quarters of all Covid-19 vaccine doses around the world have been administered in higher-income countries. This global imbalance in access to the new vaccines has resulted in only about 0.5 percent of people in low-income countries being vaccinated against Covid-19.At the start of the pandemic, we had called upon the United Nations and all governments to act early and decisively to ensure fairness and equity in the distribution of the Covid-19 vaccines around the world. Alas, even in the face of the worst global health crisis in a century, the poorest and most vulnerable have once more been left behind to fend for themselves.

This global vaccine inequity has only added to the great hardship and suffering people in poverty have endured since the onset of the global pandemic. In most countries, people in extreme poverty have received little direct assistance and resources to protect themselves physically from the deadly disease or to overcome the additional economic and social challenges because of the pandemic. As a result, for the first time in a generation, the world has recorded a sharp increase in the number of people living in poverty or suffering from hunger. Indeed, the global pandemic has highlighted even more sharply the deep inequalities and social injustices endured by people in poverty everywhere.

We are only too aware that children’s education, even in wealthier countries, has been seriously disrupted as schools have closed or resorted to virtual classrooms to contain the spread of Covid-19. However, this loss or reduction of access to schooling has been particularly significant for children in poverty who often lack even the most basic tools and digital access to participate effectively in remote learning. If this situation is not remedied urgently, it will diminish the potential and capabilities of the next generation of children, and further trap them in persistent poverty.

In the aftermath of the pandemic, there is so much talk these days by governments around the world that say they want to “build back better”. However, the rhetoric of “build back better” does not necessarily mean positive changes for society, better environmental protection or effective action against climate change.

In many countries, existing economic and social systems are broken. Instead of the economy working to improve the well-being of all people, it has enriched the already wealthy and powerful at the expense of the less fortunate. Instead of societies that place importance on peace, solidarity, human rights and dignity, we mostly live in societies defined by divisions in wealth, race, class and gender. Instead of living in harmony with nature, we have exploited, polluted and destroyed the natural environment to the point of extinction, and triggered calamitous climate change.

We cannot continue business as usual, to repeat the mistakes of the past. We need to “build forward” to create improved economic and social systems that value people and our planet over profits. A world built upon solidarity rather than division offers humanity the best hope to end persistent poverty and to avert the looming climate crisis.

This year, as we come together in solidarity for October 17 - World Day for Overcoming Poverty, it is crucial that we remain strong and united to work together to ensure that no one is left behind. People living in extreme poverty can lead the way to ensure we “build forward” because, through sheer necessity and ingenuity, they are often the first to act decisively within their communities to fight poverty, social injustice and climate change.

Their invaluable efforts, knowledge and experience must be recognized because they are true drivers of change and their voices must be heard, especially in international bodies.

When we come together in partnership and solidarity we can end persistent poverty and live in harmony with our planet.

Donald Lee, President, International Movement ATD Fourth World

Statement by Aye Aye WIN - President of the International Committee for October 17

As the new President of the International Committee for October 17th, I would like to thank you all for joining this commemoration. On this day, we gather at the commemorative stone like this one, here at the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, to bear witness to the poorest in our society. Replicas of this 'symbol of humanity' exist in many cities and villages across the world and today, many of you will be gathered around them to show solidarity with those leading the most difficult lives and who resist with dignity.

2020 has been a particularly challenging year and the COVID 19 pandemic has shown once again that whenever there is a crisis, the poorest are the hardest hit. It has put a spotlight on the deepening social and environmental inequalities.

To keep safe, we have been given instructions to wash hands, keep distance, stay home. If you are living in extreme poverty, in areas closest to worst sources of pollution and environmental damage, even these small safety measures become a big challenge. How can you wash your hands when you have no access clean water ? How can you keep distance when you share a tiny space in an overcrowded settlement? How can you stay home when your very survival depends on the work you do for the day? In a world of plenty, WHY are so many people still living in conditions of misery? Faces unseen. Voices unheard. Forgotten. Left behind.


We are members of the International Committee for October 17th. We come from different countries, different cultural, social professional backgrounds and we are UNITED to promote this international day in its TRUE SPIRIT. We honour the people in the frontline of the struggle against poverty and environmental challenges. Your experiences count. Your lives matter. We pledge our solidarity and our commitment to act together to achieve social and environmental justice for everyone. Thank you.

Aye Aye WIN - International Committee for October 17

Message from Isabelle Pypaert Perrin, director general of ATD Fourth World, October 17 2020

Message from Isabelle Pypaert Perrin, director general of ATD Fourth World, on the World Day for Overcoming Poverty, 17 October 2020

In Central America, Diego, who lives in a village up in the bare hills far from everything, loves the books brought each week by the story people. Too far from the closest health clinic, he didn’t survive the illness that took over his body.

In Europe, Lucile’s baby is taken from her just two months after his birth. She herself was placed in foster institutions all her life. So many families around the world are broken up, judged as incapable.

Also in Europe, when Jean and Hugo’s family, pushed out of everywhere they tried to live for years, finally find a place to settle where they seem to be tolerated, the land is the most polluted in the region. Today, the level of lead in Hugo and Jean’s blood is way too high.

And from Africa, in the midst of the pandemic, Djuma, just eleven years old tells us: “This is the worst time I’ve ever known. We have nothing left! We’re hungry. My parents aren’t allowed to go out or they’ll get a fine we won’t be able to pay. So that means I’m the one who goes out looking for something to eat.

All of these children, deprived of the basics, whose families don’t even have a decent roof over their heads, nothing to eat, no access to clean drinking water or basic health care.

All of these children out of school and those who take the risk of going out to sea without being sure to arrive somewhere alive.

All of these children torn from their families, even deprived of a birth certificate that would give them the right to exist in this world. If so many children and their families are still experiencing these injustices, isn’t it because we have never taken the on-going catastrophe of poverty seriously? And yet poverty kills more people than wars and epidemics.  

Since forever, each crisis that engulfs the world has a vital impact on those who have nothing. Every challenge the world takes on without them, pushes them further to the bottom.

Today, what are we waiting for? Let’s join in with the people in greatest poverty and invent this world we all want together.

They know it all from experience. They’ve faced up to violence, flooding, wildfires, drought, polluted soil, and unbreathable air. Well before any of us did this, they were sorting our garbage, risking their lives at times.

Well before we started talking about a world ecological crisis, they alerted us to environmental damage because they live and die where no one wants to live.

They are thinking about the future too. Their daily efforts are for tomorrow and they want their children to grow up caring about others, in solidarity, and with a sense of the common good.

Because of the epidemic, hundreds of millions of children have not returned to school. And millions among them will end up like the children who, even  before the epidemic, were not expected at school. Are we going to accept to live without all of these minds, as we have always lived without the intelligence of people in poverty? And yet, a big part of the intelligence and heart we need to invent our future, lies with those children, young people and adults we are forgetting.

The ones who go through the worst, teach us that we cannot separate social justice and environmental justice: there is only one justice. And the inspiration for that one justice comes, first of all, from those who know no justice. The ones who stand up to the impossible  together day after day, in the most degraded places on our planet.  

And if we start today to team up with them everywhere—in our institutions, neighborhoods, villages— tomorrow’s earth will give every human being respect for their equal dignity.

See video
Isabelle Pypaert Perrin