Day 2: ’Poverty and Inequalities, Paradoxes in Societies of Human Rights and Democracy?’ event at Council of Europe – Strasbourg 22 February 2013 Conference - Proposals for an inclusive society
The two-day conference intended to discuss the subject of poverty and inequality in societies with human rights policies, with participants from different backgrounds, bringing together institutional actors, researchers, activists, associations, and networks, as well as people living in poverty and precariousness and other citizens involved in the themes raised by the Conference. The first day of the discussion was devoted to the analysis of the current situation in terms of poverty, inequalities and precariousness of living conditions. The workshops highlighted the links between poverty and human rights, democracy, as well as reflect on the consequences of the crisis.
Andrej Hunko, from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (Germany) pointed out the strong contradiction between poor and the well-off and highlighted goverment’s social responsibility to fight poverty.
Jón Sĉmundur Sigurjónsson, senior advisor from the Ministry of Welfare from Iceland highlighted that "a well developed social welfare system is an excellent indicator of how our society fights poverty."
Key messages to tackle poverty and inequalities
EPHA focused on the workshop about ’Avoiding waste and making resources accessible’
Background: Resources are lacking and sacrifices are needed. It is necessary to address the bad management of resources and their accessibility. About 30% of food produced in Europe goes to waste and approximately 930 thousand homes remain unoccupied in the United Kingdom alone.
Waste is pervasive. It needs to be recognised as one of the causes of economic inequalities.
The aim of the workshop was to point out how the adoption of more responsible and participatory approaches in the production, consumption and management of both material goods and community spaces can help address deprivation and social exclusion.
A new paradigm about resources is key not only for environmental but also for social sustainability. Guidelines can be broken down into two strands: how to establish a fairer use of resources and how to promote a social re-birth of resources. In this framework, changes are necessary for different actors at all levels: public administrations, businesses and citizens, but in particular we are interested in how public authorities can support existing initiatives.
EPHA’s contribution to the workshop
EPHA stressed that it would be worthwhile comparing data related to poverty with health data, as evidence shows that  Poverty inequalities are strongly linked to health inequalities, the lower someone is on the socioeconomic scale the worse their health status is likely to be. These inequalities can be avoided by tackling socio-economic determinants (e.g. education, employment, and housing) leading to poverty and poor health. This can also help address the overall health of the wider population.
Proposals arising from the debate on the workshop
1. To recognise the paradox between crisis-hit societies with increasing levels of poverty and the huge amount of waste of all type of resources (material, cognitive, social, human) we generate every day
2. To raise public awareness that producing waste is not a sustainable process. Children and women and other vulnerable groups are especially hit by this problem.
3. To develop a strategy to use abandoned resources, and to provide public spaces for such initiatives. There is a need for preventive action
4. To rebuild social connections (‘de-planning’)
The Guide “Living in dignity in the XXIst Century: Poverty and Inequalities, paradoxes in Societies of Rights and Democracy?” - Launch of the guide
The executive summary of the guide is availalble here
Trends in Social Cohesion, No. 25 – “Redefining and combating poverty, Human rights, democracy and common goods in today’s Europe”. - the online bookstore is available here
The speakers’ biographies are available here.
Related EPHA articles