Report of the EAPN seminar with NGOs from Russia, Belarus, Georgia, Armenia, Moldova and Ukraine, Helsinki, May 15-17 1998
The seminar consisted of a debate on civil society: the recognition of civil society and its role, East and West, in addressing the ‘New’ forms of poverty, for example that experienced by the unemployed, migrants and refugees, ethnic minorities, prisoners and ex-offenders, the homeless, and drug and alcohol abusers.
Building on two previous seminars with NGOs from Eastern Europe organised by EAPN, (in Budapest in1994 and in Bucharest in 1996), the conclusions of this seminar show that:
1. Pan European co-operation between NGOs is a source of mutual training; it increases the effectiveness of their work.
2. The involvement of NGOs is essential to guarantee a European construction process based on the principles of democracy of real participation of citizens and co-responsibility. NGOs play an integrating role and offer the opportunity for people to be associated with finding answers to their problems and being involved in the decision-making process.
3. The market economy is not an answer to all the needs and aspirations of citizens; sometimes it is in contradiction with the principles of human rights, and NGOs should lobby national governments in order to ensure that social and health issues are not submitted to the market economy.
4. More and more marginalised people are the first to suffer from the stress of social and economic transition. However, the new trend in social policies is to present them as being responsible or even guilty of their situation of poverty and social exclusion.