Building October 17 Together

Each year, the voices of those who face poverty on a daily basis – as well as those who work alongside them – are heard through a participatory consultation process. Through this consultation, opinions from all over the world are gathered with the ultimate goal of choosing the theme of the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. This process is also used to draw up the concept note, a brief outline and goals that accompanies the chosen theme.

October 17: the source of a universal fight

On October 17, 1987, in reply to the appeal of ATD Fourth World and its founder, Joseph Wresinski, thousands of observers, allies, and activists working towards the respect of human rights gathered on the Trocadero Plaza in Paris. They refused to accept poverty, rejected its inevitability, and expressed hope for a fair and peaceful world: one freed from the burden of injustice and the suffering it causes. This gave rise to the World Day to Overcome Extreme Poverty, which was recognised in 1992 by the United Nations as the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty.

When we stand with those who usually go unheard and amplify their voices on this day, we feel that the fight for the respect of dignity is a universal one.

The consultation as a tool to build October 17 together

“We, the people who live in poverty, are intelligent and have an understanding of life and – even if many people ignore us – we will always strive for a better life.”

Emma, ATD Fourth World Bolivia

The consultation is an opportunity to gather the different opinions of people living in extreme poverty, as well as other actors working with them, in order to devise the theme of October 17 on the basis of their experiences and their knowledge. It is an annual event organized by the Forum on Overcoming Extreme Poverty at the request of the International Committee for October 17, whose mission is to publicize and spread awareness of the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty – or October 17 – and to ensure that the message behind it is upheld.

After discussions about several possible themes between various ATD Fourth World teams, some responsible for advocacy and representation at the United Nations and the International Committee for October 17, a questionnaire was drawn up by the Forum and circulated to a vast network of individuals, groups and associations who work with those in deepest poverty on a daily basis.

For more than 40 years, the Forum on Overcoming Extreme Poverty has maintained connections with people who are working towards a poverty-free world. These are not partnerships or collaborations instead, they are friendships, where the common ground is a shared commitment to respecting the knowledge, experiences, and lives of those with a lived experience of poverty. Together, they inspire and draw strength from one another in sharing their experiences and motivations.

All contributions in response to the question are summarized and used to chosen theme of October 17. This collaborative, participatory method of consultation is gradually gaining a foothold in the work being done around October 17 in the field and in the agendas of other ATD Fourth World partners. This year, it brought together more than 112 submissions, many of which were prepared collectively, from over 200 people from in 38 different countries.

The President of the International Committee for October 17 draws particular inspiration from this consultation when writing the concept note each year; a concept note which is adopted and promoted by many individuals, associations, institutions and well-known figures on the International Day. As a member of the Forum team says:

“In 2020, the international institutions community wanted to work on the theme of “building back better”, but members of the Forum for Overcoming Extreme Poverty around the world… refocused on the real issue, namely “building the future.”

Dignity at work and social protection: putting dignity into action!

“Dignity for All in Practice” is the umbrella theme selected for 2022-2023. This two-year cycle marks the 30th anniversary of the UN’s recognition of October 17 as an International Day. In 2023, the International Committee suggests focusing on dignity at work and social protection, as both are key to accomplishing ‘Dignity for All in Practice’. After all, “A job is what unlocks all doors to money, accommodation and a sense of purpose,” as Laura, an ATD Fourth World campaigner, explains. Work that respects people’s dignity tackles the Hidden Dimensions of Poverty, and ultimately inspires optimism for the future. Dignified employment is a vehicle to end extreme poverty, fight exclusion and promote cohesion by giving full agency to those with a lived experience of poverty.

“The best way to achieve access for all to the rights of all is to involve people living in poverty, by including them in project design and listening to their concerns.”

Members of Mati Bangladesh

Those working towards a world that respects the dignity of all, now have two opportunities every year to highlight and pursue the issue on a global level: one at the beginning of the year, at the Consultation, to express their opinions on the issues that are shaping international institutions; the other, on October 17, to celebrate shared achievements and showcase both their work against poverty and how they put dignity into action.

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