2015: The 14th Meeting on “Social Convergence in the EU” took place in Brussels from 19 to 20 November 2015.
This meeting aimed at creating a space for delegations of people experiencing poverty from 30 countries to bring forward their input on policies to foster social convergence in Europe and thus create the opportunity for them to become makers and shapers of policies that affect their wellbeing.
The testimonies of different participants to the meeting emphasized that three things are essential for alleviating poverty in Europe in the current economic and political context: solidarity towards people experiencing poverty, creating spaces for participation of people experiencing poverty to contribute their views and knowledge and working together.
Despite the harsh realities of their everyday lives, people experiencing poverty came together to support each other and to bring forward their ideas of what is needed to have a Europe closer to citizens. They stressed that in order to reduce the gap between Europe and its citizens, reports and technical exercises that often exclude people themselves are not enough, citizens have to be able to create and take up spaces where they can engage in discussions on finding and implementing solutions to key issues that affect their lives. The areas in which people experiencing poverty would like to see significant social change achieved are access to health and other essential services, access to decent work, adequate and accessible social protection and social assistance, affordable quality housing, and the right to be part of a meaningful context and being part of a community.
- Watch video Voices from the ground: Geneviève Baert from Belgium
The European Meetings of People experiencing Poverty have played an important role in driving the development of the direct participation of people experiencing poverty. The European meeting is a key visible moment in this process but more importantly it acts as a catalyst for national processes and national meetings of people experiencing poverty. The European Meetings have been well documented and positively evaluated for their impact on the delegates and the guests who attend.
The first of these meetings was organised by the Belgian Government in 2001 as part of the EU inclusion process launched by the Lisbon European Council (March 2000). The meetings continue to contribute to key EU processes including the follow up of the poverty target of the Europe 2020 strategy and the EU Social Investment Package. The meetings have helped to keeping poverty and social exclusion visible in the European agenda. They have contributed to some key areas of policy development such as adequacy of minimum income, child poverty, housing and homelessness, indebtedness, the links between discrimination and poverty (particularly the realities for Roma community), and the impact of liberalization on public services.
The meetings help to put faces to the realities behind the numbers of people experiencing poverty, including the different realities for women and men throughout the life cycle. In addition the meetings provide a ‘barometer’ in relation to social and economic developments in Europe. The processes associated to this meeting assist in the journey from ‘people experiencing poverty’ to ‘activists with direct experience of poverty’ and past participants are now playing important roles in anti-poverty organisations.
WHO ARE THE MEETINGS FOR?
Invited National Delegations
- People experiencing poverty who are starting to connect to anti-poverty organisations
- Some previous delegates to help with continuity
- Rep of National and EU level Institutions (Political and Functionaries)
- Rep of NGOs, Social Partners, Academics and other relevant actors
- Some elements of the meeting are open to the General Public. The meeting can be followed on website (http://voicesofpoverty-eu.net/ ) and twitter #2014PEP
- To empower the delegates in their journey from People experiencing Poverty to Activists with direct experience of poverty engaged in their communities and organisations.
- To strengthen the participation of people experiencing poverty in Anti-Poverty NGOs and relevant policy making processes at local, national and EU levels.
- To facilitate exchange and learning and to stimulate further exchanges and joint projects.
- Reality Check: on the similarities and differences in different countries and for guests to check the reality of their approaches to fight poverty, against the experience on the ground and to adjust their policies and actions as necessary
- To strengthen the participation of people experiencing poverty in relevant EU processes