ATD General Assembly 2021

ATD General Assembly 2021:

ATD Fourth World is a human rights movement dedicated to the eradication of extreme poverty and which works in over 30 countries in the global south and north. To help oversee and support this worldwide engagement, ATD Fourth World has an international Board of Directors which has a unifying and governance role. ATD Fourth World International highly recommends to read our uplifting annual report ‘Reinventing Our World Starting from People Living in Poverty’.

(click here to download the full report.)

The Board Directors, together with representatives from the different countries in which ATD Fourth World works, meet annually in a General Assembly. This year, due to pandemic restrictions around the world, the General Assembly was held in a zoom gathering on 23rd and 24th June, with a small number of participants physically present at the International Centre of ATD Fourth World in France.

We are also pleased to announce that the next International Leadership Team will be made up of :

– Chantal Consolini Thiébaud
– Bruno Dabout
– Martin Kalisa

Among the topics discussed at the Assembly were reports on the life of ATD in some of these countries. Mark Hogan, a former Director of the International Board, represented ATD Ireland this year, and below is his report on the work of ATD Ireland during the challenging period of the Covid-19 pandemic from March 2020 – June 2021.

Report by Mark Hogan:

For a period of 14 months since March 2020, Ireland has gone through 2 extended lockdowns due to the pandemic. These restrictions, which have been among the toughest in Europe, have been very challenging and sometimes traumatic for our family members.

They have shared with us how the lockdowns have reinforced and deepened their sense of isolation from their relatives, neighbours, and friends, and from wider society. Weeks and months of being confined to their homes had a detrimental impact on their mental health and wellbeing.

They shared with us, too, the economic cost of the pandemic for them with household food and energy bills greatly increased. They talked to us about how difficult it was to access health and other services, how their children were separated from their school environment and school friends, the pressures on parents caused by home schooling, and the discrimination experienced by unequal access to digital technology.

While the Government rightly invested millions in supporting people who had lost employment because of the pandemic, people who rely on social welfare like most of our family members, received no increase in their core social welfare rates.

Our aim as a team throughout all this long period of time was to keep connected with our family members. For those with no access to social media, we tried to stay connected though telephone calls and letters. While this at times felt frustrating and limited for us as a team, the family members told us afterwards how important this was for them at a low period in their lives.

For others, we set up a Facebook page called Keep Connected where over 80 family members and friends shared news, personal stories, music, art and humorous pieces, so as to keep our spirits up. It was a great success. Out of this grew an initiative called the Lockdown Liberties where family members and new contacts with experience of poverty shared poems, short stories and personal reflections they had written. This group continues to grow.

For the 17 October, as part of our public commemoration through zoom, we launched our new video film, ‘17 Voices, 1 Message: Stop Poverty!’ in which family members described what both poverty meant for them through the lens of Covid-19 and what 17 October meant for them.

From April this year, we were able to begin again our family visits, and the joy of meeting one another once more was truly uplifting for all involved. We recommenced our Leave No One Behind Conversations project with community groups in Dublin and around the country. We built on our report and work to have socioeconomic discrimination recognised as part of Irish equality law, and with other partners, we secured a commitment from the Government to hold a public consultation on this important issue in late 2021 with a view to new legislation being passed in 2022. We also have started a second project on this topic with support from the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission.

Building on our international ‘Understanding the Hidden Dimensions of Poverty’ research report, we started a Poverty Awareness Practice project where people with lived experience of poverty shared their experiences with student social workers in Trinity College Dublin, as well as piloting a Poverty Awareness module in schools. Finally to promote the SDG Goal on Health and Wellbeing, we commenced a project in which family members can participate in nature walks, visit cultural centres and events, and enjoy singalongs.

These difficult and challenging months, painful for so many, have brought us, the ATD community in Ireland, closer together in solidarity, support and action. Our lives have changed, not always for the better, but we are moving forward together in confidence and in hope.