International Day for the Eradication of Poverty

By Alea Ibrahim, Communications Intern for EVOC 150 Heritage Programme

“Wherever Men And Women Are Condemned To Live In Extreme Poverty, Human Rights Are Violated.
To Come Together To Ensure That These Rights Be Respected Is Our Solemn Duty.”

Father Joseph Wresinski

In 1987, over 100,000 people came together to commemorate the victims of extreme poverty and hunger at the Trocadero Human Rights Plaza in Paris where about 40 years before, the Declaration of Human Rights was signed. The gathered people pleaded that living and being left in extreme poverty and hunger are human rights violations. This acknowledgement and that human suffering is not inevitable are carved into the Commemorative Stone that was unveiled that day. 

This movement was called into action by Joseph Wresinski, a Catholic priest who was born and raised in poverty. Wresinski made it his life-work and legacy to fight poverty and hunger, make affected voices heard and ensure that people who are trapped in poverty are not isolated like he was when growing up, but treated with equal respect and dignity to fellow citizens.

In 1992, the UN declared the 17th of October as the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty to renew these pledges and raise awareness for the fight against extreme poverty and hunger each year, inspired by the gathering and Wresinski’s work to commemorate and fight poverty.

Poverty on our doorstep

We do not have to travel far to see human rights violated by poverty. This happens daily in Edinburgh, and Scotland-wide. 20% of working age people in Scotland live in poverty while a household is considered to be in poverty if the income falls below 60% of their household type. These householders are being pushed into poverty by earning 60% less than they are calculated to while householders are in employment.

The top 10% of the population in Scotland had 38% more income than the bottom 40% of the population combined in 2016, which reflects the huge inequality of income and action in Scotland. Already vulnerable parts of our society like ethnic minorities, lone parents, pensioners and families affected by disability are at a higher risk of poverty and people in the most deprived areas of Scotland were expected to live 22-26 years less in good health and to die 9-13 years earlier than the rest of the population.

Wresinski’s pledges carved into the Commemorative Stone and the over 100,000 voices campaigning for the fight against poverty from 1987 seem very present and still highly relevant. These groups of our society suffer social exclusion like Wresinski and his family did.

Poverty affects us – all of us

The EVOC 150 team went to a range of events that discuss, reflect and address issues and solutions around poverty. The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations’ event: Third sector showcase - Solutions to poverty gave a number of smaller organisations the chance to present their cause and their work to MSPs and the public. Some of the organisations present were MCASS who are helping minority communities who do not have access to adequate support networks to tackle issues related to addiction, Hillhouse who support families experiencing poverty with second-hand children’s clothes or boxes of essentials for expecting parents in Ayrshire and Changeworks who presented their services against fuel poverty. 

Get Heard Scotland, part of the Poverty Alliance, are test-driving their toolkit of interviewing the voices and communities affected by poverty and listening to what has been effective in easing poverty and social injustice. This is used to support the delivery plan of the Child Poverty Scotland Act from 2017 for the reduction of poverty from the Scottish Government.

SCVO hosted Nicky Hawkins from the Frameworks Institute to talk about Framing Poverty as part of their contributions to the Challenge Poverty Week programme. Hawkins explained that to have a lasting impact in the fight against poverty, the public perception around the issues and stigma of poverty has to change. The Frameworks Institute conducts communications research on how to address the issues around poverty and how to talk about it to the public. Hawkins’s presentation can be found here

The Edinburgh Voluntary Organisations’ Council started out as the Establishment of the Edinburgh Association for Improving the Conditions of the Poor in 1868. We are currently celebrating our 150th year and while EVOC’s role has changed over the time, the issues around poverty still prevail. This is why EVOC continues to campaign for social justice and supports other organisations. We are joining this year’s International Day for the Eradication of Poverty to raise awareness of the issues around poverty happening now, in our communities.


The EVOC 150 project is supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, with thanks to players of the National Lottery.

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