Message for the World Day for Overcoming Poverty
& the United Nations International Day for the Eradication of Poverty

17th October 2017

Thirty years ago, on October 17, 1987, Father Joseph Wresinski launched his his­toric Call to Action against ex­treme pover­ty at the Trocadero Human Rights Plaza in Paris with his de­c­la­ra­tion that “Wherever men and women are con­demned to live in ex­treme pover­ty, hu­man rights are vi­o­lat­ed.”

This pow­er­ful mes­sage of his Call to Action was ground-breaking be­cause it as­sert­ed, for the first time, that pover­ty is not on­ly about ad­e­quate in­come or meet­ing ba­sic needs, but, more im­por­tant­ly, is al­so about be­ing able to live a life in dig­ni­ty and to en­joy ba­sic hu­man rights and free­doms.

Joseph Wresinski be­lieved, and demon­strat­ed through his work with poor com­mu­ni­ties, that the way to break the vi­cious cy­cle of ex­treme pover­ty was to sup­port peo­ple in their fight for their hu­man rights. Today, the in­flu­ence of his vi­sion is self-evident in the United Nations Guiding Principles on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights and the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the rights-based ap­proach to pover­ty erad­i­ca­tion and de­vel­op­ment as a cen­tral plank of the United Nations’ de­vel­op­ment strat­e­gy.

Every year, since the Call to Action in 1987, peo­ple from all walks of life around the world have come to­geth­er on October 17 to ob­serve the World Day for Overcoming Extreme Poverty as an oc­ca­sion to re­new their com­mit­ment to an­swer the Call to Action and to pledge their sol­i­dar­i­ty with all peo­ple who strive to erad­i­cate ex­treme pover­ty.  

This people-driven ob­ser­vance of a uni­ver­sal day for the erad­i­ca­tion of pover­ty was rec­og­nized at the high­est lev­el when, in 1992, the United Nations de­clared October 17 as the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty.

Since then, the joint ob­ser­vance of the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty and the World Day for Overcoming Poverty, has ac­tive­ly pro­mot­ed di­a­logue and un­der­stand­ing be­tween peo­ple liv­ing in pover­ty and their com­mu­ni­ties, and with so­ci­ety at large. These ob­ser­vances have en­abled peo­ple liv­ing in ex­treme pover­ty to break the si­lence of pover­ty and to act in sol­i­dar­i­ty with those who as­pire to be their part­ners.

The theme “Answering the Call of October 17 to end pover­ty: A path to­ward peace­ful and in­clu­sive so­ci­eties” that was se­lect­ed to mark this aus­pi­cious year, re­minds us that peace is the uni­ver­sal goal of all peo­ple, es­pe­cial­ly for peo­ple liv­ing in pover­ty who are forced to suf­fer the pain of ex­clu­sion, dis­crim­i­na­tion, in­jus­tice and vi­o­lence. It al­so re­minds us that on­ly a world free from pover­ty will pro­vide the sus­tain­able foun­da­tion for build­ing peace­ful and in­clu­sive so­ci­eties. It fur­ther re­minds us of the im­por­tance of the val­ues of dig­ni­ty, sol­i­dar­i­ty and voice, un­der­scored in the Call to Action, in the strug­gle to end pover­ty every­where.

These im­por­tant val­ues are em­bed­ded in the United Nations’ Agenda 2030 which rec­og­nizes that strate­gies to over­come ex­treme pover­ty must guar­an­tee the ful­fil­ment of all hu­man rights and en­sure that no one is left be­hind. Agenda 2030 al­so rec­og­nizes the im­por­tance of mo­bi­liz­ing all stake­hold­ers in the fight against pover­ty and pro­mot­ing the full and ac­tive par­tic­i­pa­tion of peo­ple liv­ing in ex­treme pover­ty.

However, we must not be com­pla­cent be­cause the suc­cess­ful im­ple­men­ta­tion of the United Nations’ am­bi­tious agen­da de­pends not on­ly on our ac­tive par­tic­i­pa­tion but al­so on our con­stant vig­i­lance to en­sure that world lead­ers live up to their com­mit­ments to end pover­ty in all its forms and to build peace­ful so­ci­eties.

So to­day, I in­vite you to join us as we re­new our com­mit­ment to an­swer the Call to Action* and to stand in sol­i­dar­i­ty with all peo­ple around the world who strive to erad­i­cate ex­treme pover­ty.

Today, we re­new our pledge that no one will be left be­hind.

President, International Committee for October 17



Download the pdf ver­sion here.