At the end of September, the General Assembly of the United Nations held a special event on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The eight MDGs were launched in 2000 in order to provide a framework for the international community to eradicate poverty, ranging in thematic areas from poverty and hunger, education, health, the environment and targets for international cooperation. Although progress has been made, this has not been universal and many countries will fall short of reaching the targets set. While the international community has not thrown in the towel, debate among governments at the national and international level, as well as within civil society, is already well underway to consider what should replace the MDG framework come its deadline in 2015.
It was within this context that ATD Fourth World launched a participatory research project to bring to this debate the experience and knowledge of people living in extreme poverty. Across twelve countries and involving over 2000 people, a working paper resulting from the project was launched at an international seminar in June 2013.
So how does the current status of the debate at the international level concur with the findings that have come directly from people living in extreme poverty? The Outcome Document that was adopted at the special event states that a future development framework should “promote peace and security, democratic governance, the rule of law, gender equality and human rights for all.” and reaffirms the “central imperative of poverty eradication, commitment to freeing humanity from poverty and hunger as a matter of urgency.”
Certainly the promotion of human rights is welcomed by people living in poverty. Participants at one of the seminars held during the project in Mauritius stated that “all human rights must be implemented” to enable the inclusion of people in extreme poverty in society. Participants in Brazil spoke of the need to, “think together and keep uniting as colleagues in order to have our rights respected.” But promotion is not enough, it is, as the Mauritian colleagues stressed, implementation that is essential because it is the essential means to ensure what many people in poverty spoke about over and over again in the research: dignity. This can be best encompassed by a statement from a Brazilian participant: “Dignity (…) it should be a compass to show us the way.”
Within a national context, ATD Fourth World in Bolivia has worked closely with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to produce a series of documentaries which reveal the experience and knowledge of people living in extreme poverty. One such documentary is entitled “Voces de Dignidad” (Voices of Dignity) and demonstrates the discrimination that people in poverty face, particularly in their quest for decent work.
Over the course of the next two years, in the run up to the adoption of the next development framework in September 2015, ATD Fourth World will continue to make known the knowledge that the most vulnerable in our societies have produced. This is vital in order to provide to those who represented us at the UN a clear picture of what people in extreme poverty, who also belong to the “we, the peoples of the United Nations”, know to be essential in creating a sustainable development that leaves no one behind.