The Second Annual Convention of the Platform against Poverty and Social Exclusion took place this December 5-7. It stressed the need for robust social policies at national and EU level able to deal with the current economic and social crisis. Ever since the poverty reduction targets were agreed (20 million by 2020), the numbers of poor and socially excluded people in the EU have actually risen. In order to support social inclusion of disadvantaged people, access to adequate services and social protection, the European Commission is to launch a Social Investment Package for Growth and Cohesion early next year.
The European Platform against Poverty and Social Exclusion is one of the Flagship initiatives of the Europe 2020 strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth. It was launched in 2010 and sets out actions to reach the EU target of reducing the number of people at risk of poverty or social exclusion by at least 20 million by 2020.
This Convention reviewed the progress made towards reaching the poverty target and acted as a forum for consultation on the upcoming Social Investment Package. It also featured a broad call for support towards building a coalition across Member States, policy fields, levels of government, institutions and civil society actors for a more social Europe by 2020.
The Convention was addressed by European Commission President, José Manuel Barroso, the Minister for Labour of the Republic of Cyprus, Sotiroula Charalambous, the vice-president of the European Parliament, Isabelle Durant, President of the European Council, Herman van Rompuy and the Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion, László Andor.
Notably, on his first day at post as a new Commissioner for Health and Consumers, Mr Tonio Borg gave a speech on activities undertaken by DG SANCO contributing to the objectives of Europe2020 and poverty reduction targets.
The keynote speech was given by Professor Richard Wilkinson - a co-author of "The Spirit Level" - on "The effects on inequality on society and the economy". On behalf of the Civil Society, the President of the Social Platform - Conny Reuter - conveyed his messages related to the Europe2020, social situation in the EU and actions addressing the current social crisis.
The Convention brought together governmental delegations of the different EU Members States and candidate countries, delegates of the European institutions, representatives of the regional and local authorities, non-governmental organizations, people experiencing poverty, academics as well as various actors active in the fight against poverty and social exclusion.
A series of accompanying workshops took place during the conference:
Increasing the effectiveness of social protection: the case of health investment - chaired by Clive Needle (Eurohealthnet) the session extensively debated solutions for health promotion, disease prevention, poverty reduction and social inclusion by use of EU funds, cross-sector collaboration, rebalancing prevention and treatment. Excellent speakers contributed to the workshop: Jessica Allen from the UCL IHE, Antoniya Parvanova MEP (BE< ALDE), Annika Veimer from Estonian Health Services, Pablo Garcia Cubillana from Andalusian Health Services, Tamsin Rose from Healthgain.eu and Peter Buijs from TNO.
The gender dimension of poverty - gender mainstreaming should be at the heart of the Europe2020 governance process, as well as the EU Structural Funds.
Best ways to secure active inclusion - individualised approach needed that puts people at the centre, and effectively integrates quality services and ensures adequate livelihoods;
The case for e-inclusion - ICT has an added value for both citizens, through, for instance, empowering people to develop their skills, and for organisations, through, for instance, reaching target groups.
the urgency for Member States and the EU to invest in adequate, sustainable and effective social policies that strengthen human capital and social cohesion;
the Convention saw an announcement of the Social Investment Package for Growth and Cohesion, aimed to mobilise a larger share of Europe’s human capital, whilst protecting the most disadvantaged in the EU; however, the package is to serve rather as guidelines rather than mandatory requirements;
the priorities of the Social Investment Package will be: increasing the sustainability and adequacy of budgets for social policies; pursuing activating and enabling policies and provide adequate livelihoods; intervening across the life course, starting with children and youth; innovating and reform social policy based on evidence; promoting a strong social investment approach within the EU funds allocation;
support towards the Multi-annual Financial Framework 2014-2020 proposal for allocating at least 25% of Cohesion Policy funding to the Social Fund, and allocating 20% of Social Fund resources in each Member State for poverty reduction and social inclusion;
strong Social Investment Package to be supported by greater stakeholder participation in the Annual Growth Survey and the European Semester;
better, more targeted and transparent use of the EU Structural Funds, and the European Social Fund in particular.
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