Everyone Has the Right to Be Treated with Dignity
Above: Highlights from the World Day for Overcoming Poverty 2019
By Donald Lee, President, International Movement ATD Fourth World
Message for World Day for Overcoming Poverty and the United Nations International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, 2022
This year marks the 35th anniversary of the World Day for Overcoming Poverty, which was first observed in Paris on October 17, 1987 when thousands of people came together to defend the dignity and human rights of people living in poverty.
Working with ATD Fourth World, the United Nations consulted people with lived experience of poverty, as well as their allies and friends around the world, to select the theme for this year’s October 17 observance: “Dignity for All in Practice.”
This theme recognizes and highlights that all people everywhere have the right to be treated with dignity — that, as human beings, we are entitled to respect and recognition from one another.
Yet, despite the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, millions of people today, especially people living in poverty, still suffer unacceptable indignities and human rights violations in their daily lives.
Their human dignity is denied and violated when they are forced to live in extreme poverty, when they must endure deprivations in so many aspects of their lives, and when they suffer social exclusion, discrimination, stigmatisation, and shame.
When human dignity is denied, it weakens and threatens the very foundation of human rights itself.
ATD founder Joseph Wresinski observed unerringly that: “The ultimate goal of human rights is the protection of human dignity. It follows that implementing these rights will lead to all people living in freedom, justice, and peace. Only if they are taken as a whole can these rights guarantee human dignity. This is why all human rights must be protected at the same time.”
While Governments have the primary responsibility to defend and protect human rights, we have seen that government policies alone have not been able to fully protect and defend the human rights of all their citizens.
What is required is for everyone to come together in solidarity to ensure that human dignity and rights are respected and protected.
Only by acting together can we ever hope to change our current economic and social systems — based largely on competition and division — that have created and perpetuated extreme poverty and social division in a world of plenty and encouraged the wanton exploitation of our fragile planet that has driven us to the brink of a global climate disaster.
Only when we act together to end poverty and social injustice can we ever hope to achieve lasting peace and learn to live in harmony with our planet. This is why we come together in solidarity on October 17.