This past week, the UN considered a set of recommendations for reworking the Millennium Development Goals at their headquarters in New York. This time, however, a new group wants a seat at the discussion: the extreme poor.
The Fourth World, as it is called, has always been home to the population most at-risk and, unfortunately, the most difficult to help. Juan Baltazar, a former street-dweller in Bolivia and current development researcher, says he never knew about development efforts when he was homeless.
ATD Fourth World, an organization dedicated to studying and eradicating extreme poverty, compiled a report based on a three-year action-research program across twelve countries and involving over 2,000 men and women like Baltazar. Entitled “Towards Sustainable Development that Leaves No One Behind: The Challenge of the Post-2015 Agenda”, the report lists the five most important new development goals based on suggestions from the extreme poor. They are:
1. Leave no one behind: Fighting discrimination based on race, gender, and class is the most urgent need of those living in extreme poverty to access education, jobs, and so forth.
2. Introduce people living in poverty as new partners in building knowledge on development: The best way to assist the highly marginalized is to bilaterally share information and support to foster input and agency on their part.
3. Promote decent jobs and social protection: Policies that drive job-creation and fair social outcomes are essential to helping the poor help themselves.
4. Achieve education and training for all: Education must be relevant, equitable, and accessible to everyone in order to provide a firm social foundation for the “Fourth World.”
5. Promote participatory governance: Democracy is key to any sustainable approach to poverty alleviation, and the voices of the disempowered must be heard in order to help them effectively.
The report seeks to shift the emphasis in development from economic and health benchmarks to aligning policy with human rights standards. Pursuant to that, ATD believes that no real progress can be made without hearing the contributions of the poor themselves.