Father Joseph Wresinski


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. What does ATD Fourth World mean?
ATD stands for All Together in Dignity and Fourth World is a reference to people living in extreme poverty and exclusion.
Click here to know the history of our name.

2. Who is Father Joseph Wresinski?
Father Joseph Wresinski is a French Catholic priest who founded ATD Fourth World in France, 1957.
Click here to know the life of Father Joseph.

3. What’s the difference between ATD Fourth World and other NGOs that fight against poverty?
We share with many other NGOs the objective of ending poverty in all countries, whether industrialized or marginalized.
Most NGOs that fight against poverty are generally the response of society to the tragedy of poverty: people from different social classes organize themselves to think and act together, without the involvement of people living in poverty.

People living in poverty started ATD Fourth World.
The movement was initiated by Father Joseph Wresinski, (who was himself was born into poverty) and by the inhabitants of a housing camp near Paris. They sought for help in their society since they could not realize their aims by themselves. Right to this day, the people who had known or who knew great poverty are part of the movement. Their voices influence all of our objectives. It means that those who have had the hardest lives are at the center of the movement and we listen to their thoughts, experiences and proposals.

Even if we work with the poorest, we welcome people that have not experienced poverty. By joining, they learn to think and act in a process that gives priority to those that have had the greatest difficulties.

4. Where do we get our funds?
We are financed by:

  •  Membership fees from countries where ATD Fourth World has created a legal association
  • Tens of thousands of people throughout the world who contribute financially either occasionally or on a regular basis
  • Grants obtained for projects and programs that fight against poverty that come from local, regional and national government, as well as international bodies such as the European Community, the Council of Europe, and NGO agencies and private foundations
  • Donations from industry in countries where this is authorized.

5. How can you help?
There are many ways to contribute to the fight against extreme poverty.


6. What causes extreme poverty?
“Extreme poverty is the work of mankind and only mankind can destroy it.“ – Father Joseph Wresinski

This quote explains that extreme poverty is not to be accepted as inevitable or fate. It also gives responsibility to each one of us, not only to a certain class of people.

Everyone can contribute to initiatives that increase or reduce the exclusion of the less fortunate at school, work, peer groups, and society be it in the actions by political groups, unions, cultural or religious organizations that contribute or do not contribute to human rights efforts.

In every country, we do not hesitate to denounce private and public systems, behavior by individuals or groups that contribute to exclusion and extreme poverty. We propose change in partnership with individuals and humanitarian organizations. Our objective is to create an environment for unity to re-establish human rights anywhere they are being violated due to extreme poverty.

7. How can we fight extreme poverty?
With our experience in over 30 countries, we have launched several discussions and plans of action.

Extreme poverty is not to be accepted as fate. It is the work of mankind that can be ended. This conviction spurs action in the field with people in extreme poverty and the different social and economic players. It also spurs responsibility on all levels in the society: local, regional, national and international to create ambitious policies for fighting against extreme poverty.

Extreme poverty affects all aspects of life: education, professional training, work, resources, housing, health care, participation in social, political, cultural and spiritual outlets in life. Fighting against extreme poverty includes taking into account simultaneously all of these aspects that are so strongly intertwined.

To effectively fight against extreme poverty, it is best to create conditions conducive to the active contribution of people and social groups that live in extreme poverty and fight as hard as they can. Winning their contribution creates an environment of trust and exchange of ideas.

To reach the people and groups affected most by extreme poverty, it is necessary that available persons go to the places where they are forced to live or seek refuge and establish with them lasting and trustworthy alliances. These alliances will help to create and gear up for the necessary changes.
The evaluation of any program and policy for fighting against extreme poverty must be made by calculating the benefits that will be derived for the people and groups that suffer the most and undergo the most severe exclusion. This type of evaluation must be done with them.

Eliminating extreme poverty would therefore be an implementation of ambitious policies on the local, national and international scene, equipped with verifiable financial and human means, which can only lead to a profound change in mentality by everyone.

8. How many people living in poverty are there?
Some figures from the United Nations Development Program:

  • More than a billion people live with less than a dollar per day.
  • 2.8 billion people, that is to say almost half of the global population, live with less than 2 dollars per day.
  • 448 million children are underweight.
  • 876 million adults are illiterate, two thirds of which are women.
  • Every day, 30,000 children under 5 years old die from avoidable diseases.
  • More than a billion people don’t have access to healthy water.
  • 20% of the global population has 90% of the wealth.

We regularly produce qualitative studies on extreme poverty through our Research Institute, but it is not a statistics-producing organization. Since the 1960s, we have asked the authorities in each country that we are present to meticulously measure how many people are victims of extreme poverty and the effects of policies designed to overcome destitution.

Gradually studies have been carried out. Mostly these are statistics on the income of people and households but also on access to work, accommodation, healthcare, education system, and adult training. These statistics can be found on the websites of global organizations such as the World Bank, United Nation Development Program (UNDP), European Statistical Organization (Eurostat), and on national statistical sites.

However, most of the time, there is no simultaneous review of data to allow measurement of how many people or households have difficulties (no money, no accommodation, no work, no access to healthcare, no quality education etc.) and for how long. And yet the poorest people and families are known to be in gradually worsening situations.

We ask statistic-producing organizations to work with representatives of people living in extreme poverty to define together all participative indicators of the fight against poverty and exclusion.

9. Is poverty increasing or diminishing?
It is very difficult to answer this question, because the answer depends on the definition of poverty that is adopted and the quantitative indicators that are used.

Some measures can have the result of supporting people and populations living in precariousness and leaving aside those in extreme poverty, making their life even more difficult.

A popular poverty measurement indicator is the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita. The GDP is used to compare poverty in one country to that in another and to measure poverty from one year to the next in the same country. It is calculated by dividing a country’s GDP indicator by number of inhabitants. If the wealth of the country’s 10% richest inhabitants increases, the GDP rises. Therefore the indicator will go up without indicating if the situation of the country’s poorest people is improving.

In 2000, the United Nations launched the Millennium Goals whose objective is to reduce by half the number of people living with less than $1 per day (in 2009 1.25$). This goal is not fair. Why? It does not include the aims of the people who remain below this threshold and whose situation may get worse at the same time. For example, it is the poorest people and populations who pay the highest price in food during financial and economic crises.

This is the reason we believe that numbers are not the only basis. We have to take into account the views (qualitative data) of people living in poverty. If some people’s situation improves in a particular domain, we endeavor to understand the reason it has not improved for others. In this case, we believe that poverty alleviation policies can be improved so that no one is left behind.