Non-Governmental Organisations



Strasbourg, 23 March 2009



The Social Cohesion and Eradication of Poverty Committee, meeting on 27 January 2009 with Antonina Dashkina, Vice-Chair, in the Chair, in the absence of Irene Donadio, Chair:

1. Heard a message from Irene Donadio, Chair, to all members.

Amended the agenda as follows:

    Items 7, 8 and 9 would be dealt with in the order 9, 8, 7.

2. Adopted the synopsis of the meeting held on 2 October 2008 [CONF/SOC(2008)SYN1].

3. Adopted the following principles for synopses: concise, synoptic and universally accessible.

4. Appointed Marie-Eve Fischer (ATD-Fourth World) committee rapporteur.

5. Feedback on consultation of members on the priorities for the committee

    Took note of the themes proposed by members:
    o The impact of the financial crisis on social cohesion

      The financial crisis was deepening and putting increasing pressure on employment, women, people with disabilities, low earners and people living in severe poverty. The political and economic decisions now being made had an impact on efforts to combat poverty and on access to economic, social and cultural rights.

    o Immigration issues

      In a political context of restrictions on migration opportunities, the consequences for illegal female migrants were impoverishment and exploitation. How could they be defended? To what extent were they covered by the Social Charter?

    o Social cohesion

      People who had experience of severe poverty needed to take part in decision-making and projects. Technical and educational support would have to be developed. How would the relevant choices be put into effect? Prevention in the field of health was very closely linked to social cohesion and the economy.

    o The committee’s communication methods

      Expertise in the area of social cohesion and poverty eradication existed in the committee. How could it be put to use most effectively?
      The work done by the INGOs concerning social cohesion, poverty, health and, in particular, best practices, tools and principles both for individuals and for institutions represented added value. How could it be publicised?

    o Poverty indicators:

      The poverty indicators used most commonly were economic in nature and only partially reflected the various situations and contexts. That was not satisfactory from the angle of human rights. Poverty indicators were tools for evaluating policies to combat poverty.

    Agreed to carry forward the following topics:
    o The financial crisis and its impact;
    o Immigration issues.

6. Participation of the primary stakeholders (poor and excluded): methods, strategies, concrete proposals (deferred to a future meeting)

7. Proposal for a Joint NGO campaign: ‘Europe says no to poverty’

Heard a presentation of the project by the Vice-Chair:

    The campaign was already under way and was a success in the Russian Federation. The approach involving co-operation between social workers and the poor enabled the latter’s views to be heard and had a remarkable impact on several levels. The campaign was preparing the ground for 2010, which had been declared European Year for Combating Poverty and Social Exclusion by the European Union.

Discussed methods of action. Several measures were put forward:

    - List the ways INGOs gathered ideas, implemented them and carried out participatory projects – for instance, “registers of grievances”, which served as a basis for analysing indicators in greater depth and appealing to policymakers for action;
    - Study the added value of INGOs’ work;
    - Compile experiences in publications;
    - Collect contributions for 17 October;
    - Draft a text to reiterate the Council of Europe’s values during the current crisis;
    - Find ways of involving young people (platforms, discussion forums, etc);
    - Support the political action of the Council of Europe and, in particular, of Ms Maud de Boer-Buquicchio, Deputy Secretary General.

8. EU and Council of Europe action in the field of social cohesion

    Discussed the policies of the European Union and the Council of Europe in the area of combating poverty. The philosophies, resources and approaches were different. Were the EU’s tools a response to the social disintegration brought on by the crisis?

9. Debate on the preparation for European Year for Combating Poverty and Social Exclusion (EU, 2010)

    Heard a presentation by the Vice-Chair:
    78 million people in Europe lived in poverty. It was an opportunity to demonstrate commitment to combat poverty and to co-operate with other organisations. Within the committee, it was necessary to take account of the EU’s work concerning social cohesion and poverty, in particular the European Year 2010 project.

    Following the meeting on 17 October 2008 between the Deputy Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Maud de Boer-Buquicchio, and a delegation of associations from the Strasbourg 17 October collective action group comprising the International Association of Charities (AIC), Amnesty International (AI) and ATD-Fourth World, approved the proposal to assign a leading figure from the INGO Conference the task of strengthening ties with the EU in connection with European Year for Combating Poverty and Social Exclusion 2010 and agreed to submit the proposal to the Standing Committee.

10. Update on the advocacy in the Council of Europe on the UN Guidelines on Human Rights and Poverty

11. Update on the debate on the report on health prevention, appointment of a rapporteur on health issues (deferred to a future meeting)

    Took note of the participation of the working group on health prevention in the work of Parliamentary Assembly Sub-Committee on Health for the purpose of raising awareness among the parliamentarians and then the governments of the 47 member countries.

    Appointed Mr Guy Schlaeder rapporteur of the working group on health prevention.

12. Work plan

    Social Cohesion and Disability: What role for the committee? Appointment of a taskforce and of a rapporteur (deferred to a future meeting)

    Social Cohesion and Human Rights, co-operation with the Human Rights Committee, Appointment of a Rapporteur (deferred to a future meeting)

    The Social Charter and social cohesion: ongoing activities and ratification strategy.

    Discussed the issues of the European Social Charter as a legal tool for promoting social cohesion and combating poverty, in particular:
    o the strategies being followed with a view to including Article 30, “Everyone has the right to protection against poverty and social exclusion”, in the ‘hard core’ of the Charter;
    o the European Social Charter as a vital, practical legal tool;
    o collective complaints as a means of action for INGOs entitled to use the procedure;

    The state reports showed that the Charter’s various articles had an impact on national legislation. Its compliance or non-compliance was highlighted.

    Noted the importance of the tool and the need to publicise and use it.

    Approved a motion concerning 2010 and Article 30 of the Social Charter.

    Proposed that the Standing Committee put the following motion to the vote at the next INGO Conference:
    “In preparation for 2010 European Year for Combating Poverty and Social Exclusion declared by the European Union, in which the Council of Europe has decided to take part, we, the Council of Europe INGOs, reiterate our commitment to the European Social Charter and the process of including Article 30 of the revised Social Charter in the hard core of compulsory articles for signatory states to the Charter.”

    Noted the participation of INGOs in monitoring of the Charter and the co-ordination work done by Marie-JosÚ Schmitt.

    Migration: new developments and possible action by the committee (see item 5).

    13. Reporting of past events and forthcoming meetings

      Reports on the meeting of the chairs of the committees and transversal groups and the meeting with the Committee on Social Cohesion of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe (24 November 2008).

      Forthcoming event: Conference of Ministers responsible for Social Cohesion, 26-27 February 2009, Moscow.

    14. Other business

      Took note of the participation of members of the committee in groups of experts (in particular, Maritchu Rall concerning the Committee of Experts on the Empowerment of people experiencing extreme poverty).
      . The commitments needed to be carried forward.

      Expressed support for John Murray representing the committee in the discussions on social cohesion.

      Approved a motion concerning the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (for submission to the Standing Committee and vote at the INGO Conference in April 2009):

      “Aware of the importance of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in terms of their participation and full citizenship, we, the Council of Europe INGOs, call on states which have not yet ratified the convention to undertake to do so (including the additional protocol) as quickly as possible.”

      Agreed to invite a speaker to discuss the financial crisis and social cohesion and a speaker to give an update on the work of the Committee of Social Rights at the next meeting.

Cc: Members of the Standing Committee
Secretary General of the Parliamentary Assembly
Secretary General of the Congress
Secretary to the Committee of Ministers
Directors General
Registrar of the European Court of Human Rights
Director of the Private Office of the Secretary General of the Council of Europe
Director of External Relations
Director of Strategic Planning
Director of Communication
Director a.i. of the Office of the Commissioner for Human Rights