From the outset, Emmaus’ aim was to raise political awareness by “stirring consciences and sharing struggles“. As the movement has developed, Emmaus International has drawn on its member organisations’ work at grassroots level to produce common alternatives, and lobbied decision-makers and international institutions for policy changes.

Throughout his life, very few issues left Abbé Pierre unmoved or unwilling to tackle them. On several occasions, he rallied the Emmaus movement to defend the rights of the poorest, and fight for justice and peace. This was particularly the case in the early 1970s during the civil war in the Pakistani province of Bengal. On his return from India, he appealed to France´s 38,000 mayors to set up twinning agreements to support the Bengali refugee camps in India. Several Emmaus Friends’ Committees responded and set up twinning and cooperation committees within the UCC. Later on, at the start of the 90s, when Benin was in crisis and a struggle for the respect of fundamental rights began, Abbé Pierre and an Emmaus International delegation travelled there to support the transition to democracy. They took part in an information campaign and lobbying event on the theme “Overcoming fatalism in Africa”. During the same period, Abbé Pierre adopted a stance on the war in Bosnia and wrote an open letter, together with the Emmaus movement, to the President of the French Republic. Up until the end of 1995, the movement took collective action by sending various convoys to deliver food and equipment to the refugees and victims of the war.

At the same time, the Emmaus groups ran international solidarity initiatives at local level, in the form of direct aid (twinning between communities, partnerships or organising container shipments).

From the early 2000s onwards, the Emmaus groups began to look at ways of achieving greater coherence and coordination between these different initiatives. For this reason, in 2003, the movement embarked on two projects. Firstly, to identify common themes that would enable the groups to become actively involved in shaping the movement’s political vision. Secondly, on the practices of international solidarity which needed to be developed, and which would lead to a decision to pool the movement’s wealth for a fairer, more widely shared and transparent redistribution of resources.

Between 2003 and 2007, Emmaus International initiated a collective political lobbying campaign based on five themes: the right to water, ethical finance, migrants’ rights and combatting human trafficking, the right to education and the right to health. These common themes led to the movement’s first joint projects: the citizen-led water access programme in Nokoué, in Benin, the launch of the Emmaus Ethical Fund, the “Visa pour le Monde” white paper on migration, the Emmaus mutual health organisations and an international meeting on education.

Subsequently, between 2007 and 2011, Emmaus International increased its involvement in international forums and developed alliances with collectives and organisations in order to join forces with others to challenge the causes of poverty, injustice and environmental damage. For example, as part of its regular participation in the World Social Forums, it collaborated with the Utopia movement and the France Libertés-Danielle Mitterand foundation, to create the Organisation for Universal Citizenship. They were later joined in 2015 by the CCFD-Terre Solidaire and the Latin American network Red Sin Fronteras.

Find out more about the Organisation for Universal Citizenship

“For a new insurrection of intelligence, against absurdity and for justice”

In 2016, the Emmaus groups came together for the World Assembly in Jesolo, Italy, and committed to providing fresh impetus to international solidarity. Together, they redefined their efforts to tackle the causes of poverty into three struggles: fighting for an ethical and solidarity economy, social and environmental justice and global peace and freedom of movement and of residence for universal citizenship. This new way of framing Emmaus’ work aimed to enable each member to consider their work from the perspective of social transformation. Since this assembly, the movement has taken ownership of its engagement in political activism and lobbying policy makers.

Discover our three struggles

Following the World Assembly in 2016 and its final declaration which reminded us that, “It is not enough to take action, we must overcome, that is to say, take more action than the forces moving in the other direction” (Abbé Pierre, Beirut 1959), Emmaus International organised its first “World Forum of Alternatives led by the most excluded” in 2018 in Geneva, Switzerland, in collaboration with allied social movements from around the world. Over 400 participants attended this forum from around thirty countries to co-construct joint actions to fight the structural causes of poverty and work together on alternatives for a fairer world. Following this event, the Emmaus movement became involved in new coalitions and confirmed its support for several international social movements.

“Taking charge of our future together”

While Emmaus International was implementing the guidelines from its 2016 World Assembly, the idea of publishing an Emmaus global report on the movement’s struggles emerged, bolstered by the first Forum of Alternatives held in 2018. In October 2021, Emmaus International published “Our Voices”, Emmaus International’s first Global Report on its fight against poverty. Inspired by the daily work of the Emmaus groups, and in an effort to echo the powerful voice of its founder, this report makes demands and proposes concrete solutions for those who truly want to fight against poverty and build a world of solidarity, sustainability and peace. Because poverty is not a fatality, but the result of political choices, this document sets out a common basis for all the movement’s actors to make the voices of the voiceless heard.

” Implementing the solutions we advocate does not require courage, but will. We have this will. We are already hard at work to make this a reality, alongside many others. “

Emmaus: Our Voices
Download “Emmaus: Our Voices”, our first Global Report on our fight against poverty