Further to the analysis of the National Action Plans on social inclusion, EAPN organised a Conference on 22-23 November 2001. The conference conclusions make a series of recommendations on the strategy to be pursued and its policy content, addressed to all actors of the NAPsincl process.
1. RECOMMENDATIONS ON METHODS AND STRATEGIES
The only way the open method of coordination for social inclusion policies will work is if all actors follow a coherent, participatory method for the development, follow-up and evaluation of the NAPsincl.
1.1. Information, participation, partnership, exchanges of good practice
- Get the NAPsincl out into the open: Governments, local authorities and civil society must put out widescale information on the process, starting further up the line with the groundwork for the development of the NAPsincl.
- Take ownership of the NAPsincl back to the grassroots: Mechanisms for consultation and participation must be set up so that the NAPsincl stop being just a government project and become a real national issue.
- Put special emphasis on participation by people in poverty: The willingness and methods to do this still have to be developed. NGOs active in this area must promote empowerment and put forward the views of those most affected. They must have long-term funding for this.
- Involve both sides of the labour market: Business and the unions are currently too disengaged from the process whereas should be active stakeholders in implementing inclusion policies.
- Develop local partnerships: To be really relevant, analysis, implementation and evaluation must be the product of cooperation between the different actors.
- Good practice: make a real sharing of experience possible. A context and an evaluation method must accompany the definition of “good practice” so that actors in different countries can have productive discussions and make workable improvements to practices.
1.2. Developing coherent policies
- The EU must support a coherent long-term strategy: The EU’s firm pledge to eliminate poverty must become a long-term commitment. It should be affirmed in the next revision of the Treaty. It must also be an ongoing focus, not a two-year cycle matching the NAPs deadlines. Regular Round Tables must be scheduled, and representatives of civil society involved in organizing them. Economic, monetary and social policies must form three parts of an equilateral triangle. All policies must be inclusion-proofed.
- Each Member State must ensure relevant, transparent implementation of the plans at local level: Whatever the national political and administrative set-up, policies must be put into practice as close to the individual as possible, and clear lines of responsibility drawn between the different levels. The local level is normally the principal action level, and must have resources commensurate with its responsibility.
- Create clear linkages between action programmes and budget funding: The national authorities must demonstrate practical commitment by allocating specific budget lines to the planned measures. Budget responsibilities must be clearly identified. NAPsincl must extend over two budget years to become an effective instrument.
1.3. Follow-up, analysis and evaluation
- Develop preliminary analyses: The framing of measures must be supported by preliminary research and cross-analysis. Civil society must be involved in this stage at both local and European level.
- Develop indicators to measure changes in the daily lives of people experiencing poverty and exclusion: The indicators must use data which reflect the experiences of people enduring poverty and exclusion. They must be involved in framing the indicators so as to bring their real-life concerns and the multi-dimensional nature of poverty into the equation. These indicators, as well as improving statistics-keeping, must also give a comparative picture of social rights trends in the different EU countries.
- Develop partnership-based policy evaluation: Local (observatories), national and European (peer review) assessment must be comprehensive, incorporating all viewpoints, and ensure a transparent examination of the reasons for success and failure. The peer review must not be kept within closed government circles but extended to all actors. Evaluation must be an ongoing process.
2. RECOMMENDATIONS ON THE CONTENT OF INCLUSION POLICIES
The foregoing strategy recommendations must be put into practice through the implementation of the policies below.
Some of these recommendations address specific groups, but most are cross-cutting through all policy spheres.
2.1. Uphold a decent income for all
Poverty may not just be about a lack of money, but it is an aspect not to be ignored. Each country must put in place a decent, non-contingent “minimum” income which at least keeps pace with average cost of living increases.
2.2. Develop and safeguard existing social protection systems
The modernization of these systems must not be an opportunity to question services which are proven bulwarks against poverty. Everyone must have guaranteed easy access to adequate benefits and good quality services.
2.3. Help people get back into dignified employment
Unemployment may be a key cause of poverty, but simply having work is no guarantee of leaving poverty or exclusion behind. It must be accompanied by respect for the individual’s wishes, decent pay and observance of employment law.
2.4. Act for gender equality across the board
Gender equality starts with measures to ease the work/family life dilemma. The gender dimension must be mainstreamed across all policies.
2.5. Enable the practical exercise of a right to housing
The right to housing affects the ability to exercise other rights which must be affirmed and ambitious measures focusing on it must be developed.
2.6. Develop health support measures
There is a need for appropriate health care provision, plus prevention, information and education activities, and guarantee access to care for those denied it for geographical, economic or cultural reasons.
2.7. Recognize people in poverty as cultural actors
Culture is a potent force for action, so it must have a central place in inclusion policies.
2.8. Act for the most vulnerable groups
Put a special focus on seeing that the poorest in society, refugees and asylum seekers have an effective access to rights. It is also vital to bear down on illiteracy.