|Renewed EU commitmment to combating poverty and social exclusion – what perspectives for the Year?|
The European Anti Poverty Network (EAPN), a network of organisations fighting poverty and social exclusion across the European Union, called for 2010 to be the European Year against Poverty and Social Inclusion back in 2004 and has been promoting the year ever since.
2010 is a crucial moment for the EU - the EU Year against Poverty and Social Exclusion marks the deadline set by the Lisbon Strategy back in 2000 to make a decisive impact on the eradication of poverty in Europe. 2010 presents a vital opportunity for the EU to assess why it has not made progress in achieving this goal.
For us in the EAPN there are two main objectives for 2010. The first one is to raise awareness about the causes and effects of poverty and social exclusion - including the examination of the stereotypes that are associated with those experiencing poverty and social exclusion. The second objective is to ensure that the fight against poverty and social exclusion is at the heart of the EU2020 strategy.
Poverty is a daily reality for millions of people across the European Union: 16% of the EU population are in or at risk of poverty, i.e. about 79 million people. Women (17%), children (19%) and older people (19%) face a higher poverty risk, while groups such as homeless, Roma, migrants and ethnic minorities are often facing extreme forms of poverty. In single households with children, the majority of which are headed by women, the poverty rate is estimated at 33%.
However, poverty is not only about financial deprivation: 4% (more than 19 million) of people living in Europe lack an indoor flushing toilet for sole use of the household, 18% live in housing that has significant problems with damp whereas 30 million are under nourished. Even having a job does not always protect people from the risk of poverty: in 2007, 8% of the employed citizens in the EU countries (aged 18 and over) lived below the poverty threshold.
Our approach to the year has been to attempt to maximise the impact and involvement of all actors. As part of this approach EAPN is currently coordinating a broad NGO coalition involving over 40 European networks. This coalition, launched on the 19 January, is working in close cooperation with the European Commission who has overall responsibility for the Year for Combating Poverty and Social Exclusion.
Among the objectives of the 2010 NGO coalition are building the understanding and support for the individual objectives of different networks; building consensus across the NGO sector on the outcomes of the Year; driving forward key projects and building alliances with other actors to ensure the success of the Year.
The coalition had developed a common approach to activities at EU and national level. These activities are thought of in an open fashion and we hope that a variety of actors will take initiatives to support these actions. Arts and culture actors are particularly well placed to contribute and to assist to these events with the objective to reach audiences, which are usually not engaged in debates about poverty and social exclusion in the EU.
Throughout 2010, national focus weeks will put the spotlight on one Member State. Support will be given to national level networks and actors in order to ensure the visibility of their work and actions. NGOs are aiming to create a symbolic transfer between national focus weeks by a person passing on the NGO messages for the Year from one week to the next.
The European Spring focus week (24-30 May) will aim to raise awareness on the situation of poverty in Europe mainly via broadcasting. The NGOs coalition and the EC will try to mobilize community media as well as public broadcasting and private press to engage in a debate about poverty, social exclusion and the growing levels of inequality. We hope that cultural institutions will participate in this awareness-raising activity.
The European Autumn focus week (11-17 October) will include activities around 17 October - the International Day against Poverty. We aim to have an impact on the political outcomes of the Year. In particular focus will be the organisation of a human ring around the EU institutions in Brussels on 12 October. Similar events involving small and large gatherings in towns and cities throughout Europe will also happen on this day.
The questions will remain at the end of the Year, once the formal closing event of the Year has taken place in Brussels under the Belgian Presidency in December 2010, whether the Year really has had an impact on social policy in the EU. Will those suffering from poverty feel less isolated? Will their voice have been heard? If we are to have some positive answers to these questions then all actors, arts and culture sector included, must engage and take advantage of the achievement of having a Year dedicated to the fight against poverty and social exclusion.
European Anti-Poverty Network
EAPN website www.eapn.eu
EY 2010 NGO coalition website www.endpoverty.eu
European Commission website for 2010 www.2010againstpoverty.eu