Our Name

I’ve heard of the third world, and even the first world — but the fourth world? And ATD? You mean ADT, right?

ATD Fourth World — it’s a name with a lot of history.

To Joseph Wresinski, the founder of ATD Fourth World, the term “Fourth World” was one that people living in extreme poverty and those in solidarity with them could use to describe themselves with pride.  He used it to refer to people in both industrialized and developing countries who are marginalized and treated differently because of their persistent poverty.

The term Fourth World arose when the families of the Noisy-le-Grand emergency housing camp were first looking for legal recognition for the organization they had started.  They looked for a name that would restore the dignity which so many other attempts at ‘charity’ had stripped from them.  Joseph Wresinski suggested “Fourth World,” a reference to a term used during the French Revolution.

At the time of the Revolution, France was divided into three estates: the clergy, the aristocracy, and the commoners.  The third estate, which was supposed to include everyone not in the first two, gained political rights in 1789.  They were allowed to express their grievances in official written records and to elect representatives to the first national assembly.

But people living in extreme poverty were excluded from these rights because they did not pay enough taxes.  A member of the French nobility, Dufourny de Villiers, argued against this discrimination, writing about what he called the “fourth order.”  Dufourny acted in favor of rights for all, and thought that the voices of people such as day laborers, widows, and the ill or infirm were essential to build a free and fraternal society.

And ATD?  Or is it ADT?  Or ADD?

It’s ATD, and today it stands for All Together in Dignity, words which represent our approach to fighting poverty.  Eradicating poverty will take all of us, not just those with the money to make donations or those who are living in poverty.  We need to work together, and above all else we need to treat everyone with the dignity they deserve.

When Wresinski first chose the acronym, it actually stood for “Aide à Toute Détresse” — a phrase we don’t even try to translate into English.  As the organization grew, we needed a phrase that would work in every language, and it was our team in the Philippines that suggested All Together in Dignity.