Isn’t it more important to fight poverty in Southern countries rather than in Northern countries?
The difference in the average level of income between populations living in Southern countries and Northern countries is startling. But in both the South and in the North, the experience of extreme poverty is characterized by being worthless, being rejected and being made to feel guilty because of one’s situation. It is therefore as important to act in the North as it is in the South.
ATD Fourth World started in France in 1957 and for more than 20 years the movement prioritized development in Northern countries. Between 1960 and 1990 the very existence of poverty in some of these countries was denied as economic riches were created and so-called full employment reigned. However, ATD Fourth World was already meeting people and groups of people that had been rejected because of a history of poverty. This rejection had very grave consequences such as having their children taken away from them. It was important to stand with these people in the fight against poverty as it had torn their lives apart and yet they were generally judged to be responsible for their situation and the efforts that they made were not recognized.
From the 80s onwards ATD Fourth World has had a presence in Southern countries. People in the South requested the establishment of the movement in their countries after they learnt of its existence in Northern countries. We discovered that, as in Northern countries, people and families were often badly treated and sometimes even rejected by their local communities. It was these people that had the hardest lives.
ATD Fourth World movement concludes that rejected people in both the North and in the south are held responsible for their situation. They are not trusted, the effort that they make is not appreciated, and their opinion about how to fight against their situation is not valued. Changing this will come through action that is taken to improve material living conditions and also through the exchange of knowledge in order to tear down ignorance and shame. These actions must be anchored in the realities on the ground and must also be supported by local, regional, national and international government. In the South as in the North, ATD Fourth World has met people that fight for the reduction and eventual destruction of poverty and the movement endeavors to insure that no one is isolated in their solidarity with the poorest.