Strasbourg, 30 October 2014CDDECS (2014) 17
EUROPEAN COMMITTEE FOR SOCIAL COHESION,
HUMAN DIGNITY AND EQUALITY
18-20 November 2014
Council of Europe Conference on the
Implementation of the Strategy and
Action Plan for Social Cohesion in member states
COMPILATION OF SPEECHES AND WRITTEN CONTRIBUTIONS
Baku, Azerbaijan, 10-11 September 2014
THE MINISTRY OF LABOUR AND SOCIAL
PROTECTION OF POPULATION OF
THE REPUBLIC OF AZERBAIJAN
Council of Europe Conference on the
Implementation of the Strategy and
Action Plan for Social Cohesion in member states
under the aegis of the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers
chairmanship of the Republic of Azerbaijan
May - November 2014
and challenges in times of crisis
COMPILATION OF SPEECHES AND WRITTEN CONTRIBUTIONS
Baku, Azerbaijan, 10-11 September 2014
Mr. Salim MUSLUMOV, Minister of Labour and Social Protection of Population of the
Republic of Azerbaijan...........................................................3
Ms Ana VUKADINOVIĆ, Chair of the Rapporteur Group of the Ministers’ Deputies on
Social and Health Questions of the Council of Europe.....................................6
Ms Maria OCHOA-LLIDO, Representative of the Council of Europe Secretary General,
Head of the Antidiscrimination and Social Cohesion at DG II “Democracy”......................8
Key note speech by Ms Maria ORESHINA, Russian Federation
Plenary Session 3 - Diversity in European societies - presentation of the progress
review on the Council of Europe contribution to social cohesion in Europe......................10
PLENARY SESSION 2: Implementation of the Council of Europe New Strategy and Action
Plan for Social Cohesion in member states, and exchange of national good practices -
National Contributions from :
REPUBLIC OF MOLDOVA........................................................20
PLENARY SESSION 3: Diversity in European societies - presentation of the progress
review on the Council of Europe contribution to social cohesion in Europe
Mme Carlien SCHEELE, Chair, CDDECS (European Committee for Social Cohesion,
Human Dignity and Equality, Council of Europe) ........................................27
Talking points of the Minister of Labour and Social Protection of Population of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Mr. Salim Muslumov, at the Conference on the implementation of the Strategy and the Action Plan for Social Cohesion in the member states of the Council of Europe
Dear Ladies and Gentlemen,
I would like to cordially welcome you here, at the Conference on the implementation of the Strategy and the Action Plan for Social Cohesion in the member states of the Council of Europe.
It is with pleasure that I mention the presence of representatives of 25 member states, the Council of Europe, state authorities (state bodies) of Azerbaijan, diplomatic representations and international organizations accredited in Azerbaijan and non-governmental organizations in the current event. Such a diverse and qualitative representation clearly demonstrates the high value, which the member states and the Council of Europe, as an organization, attribute to the issues of social cohesion and international cooperation in this field.
As you may be aware, Azerbaijan took over the chairmanship over the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe at the session of the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers held on 6 May 2014 in Vienna. The present conference is organized in the framework of Azerbaijan’s chairmanship. Azerbaijan has defined its chairmanship priorities having regard to the current agenda of the Council of Europe and the challenges faced by the member states. These priorities include cooperation in the field of combating corruption, promotion of cultural diversity, youth, and education and other issues, as well as social cohesion and strengthening sustainability. The goal of the present conference is to exchange opinions on the actions taken to ensure implementation of the Strategy and Action Plan for Social Cohesion in the Council of Europe’s member states.
According to the concept that we all agree with, social cohesion is an ability of a society to ensure the well-being of all of its members. At the same time, I would like to share with you a special point which attracted my attention. The word “cohesion” in English corresponds to many equivalent words in Azerbaijani. For instance, its equivalents in Azerbaijani are such words as “unity”, “harmony” and “consistency”.
It is not a coincidence that the social cohesion policy of the Azerbaijani government also aims to achieve Unity, Harmony and Consistency in society.
This policy is covered at the highest level by the Development Concept “Azerbaijan-2020: The Vision of the Future” approved by the decree of Mr. Ilham Aliyev, President of the Republic of Azerbaijan. The concept re-confirms a strategic development path, which ensures the formation in Azerbaijan of a state based on the rule of law, democratic values and market economy.
In addition to the economic goals the above document covers such priorities as development of human capital, improving quality of education and health care, strengthening social protection of population, ensuring gender equality, development of civil society, increasing youth potential and poverty reduction.
One of the main indicators of the global breach of social cohesion is income inequality among different segments of the population and the lack of participation of vulnerable groups of population in the entire process of progress in the country. In order to prevent or remedy this trend, every country shall have a sustainable and comprehensive approach to this issue.
I can assure you that social cohesion and social sustainability are vital elements of the Azerbaijani Government’s action plan. In the past ten years our country has taken decisive measures to ensure employment, to increase population income and to reduce poverty. With this aim, it implemented numerous programmes, including the State Programme on Implementation of the Employment Strategy, the State Programme on Reduction of Poverty and Sustainable Development, the State Programme on social and economic development of regions and other social projects.
It is not coincidental that a well-targeted economic and social policy led to the prevention of a negative impact of the 2009 global economic and financial crisis on well-being of our population.
The implementation of proper reforms resulted in the formation of a socially oriented national economy, which is integrated in the world’s economic system and ensured further reinforcement of the achieved success. At the same time macroeconomic stability has been preserved, diversification of economy, development of the non-oil sector and the regional development speeded up and the state support of business activities increased.
The implemented measures have led to the increase of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by 3.4 times in the last 10 years, the investments into economy increased and reached 132 billion dollars, strategic currency reserves exceeded the external debt by ten times and reached more than 50 billion dollars. In addition to this, the number of new job openings in the labour market exceeded 1 million 300 thousand, the unemployment ratio decreased to 5%; poverty ratio decreased to 5.3% and the population’s income increased by 6.5 times.
In addition to new vacancies in the state economy, government reforms in the state pension system and towards strengthening the protection of indigent groups of population played a major role in poverty reduction. I would like to note that currently the number of retired employees receiving labour pensons is 1,273,270, the number of people receiving a targeted state social assistance is 547,300 and the number of people provided with social pensions is 320,520. Furthermore, in the first half of the current year about 62 thousand people received a one-time allowance. In general the government supported 23% of population through its social protection system and provided them with direct access to social services.
Achievements in the social and economic field reduced the general death index (ratio) of population and this positive trend resulted in increased life expectancy at birth. Thus, in 2003 the life expectancy at birth in Azerbaijan was 72.3, including 69.5 for men and 75.1 for women; in 2013 this indicator was 74.2, including 71.6 for men and 76.8 for women.
I would like to mention also another important issue. In the past 10 years, in addition to the issue of social security the government paid significant attention to the development of health care and education. As a result of this and the speedy increase of GDP per capita, the country’s Human Development Index significantly increased and Azerbaijan was the 76th country in the report of the UN Development Programme, therefore it became a country with a high Human Development Index.
In addition to the above, the Azerbaijani government took important steps in the area of combating corruption and promotion of transparency, minimizing citizens’ contacts with state officials, widespread application of information and communication technologies, improvement of quality of social services rendered to the public and making them simple and available. In July 2012 the State Agency for Public Service and Social Innovations was established under the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan and its ASAN service centers were set up. This agency created a qualitatively new arena for relations between citizens and officials. The ASAN centers provide more than 230 public and private services to citizens from one location and so far they have provided such services to over 2.5 million people. Tomorrow, on 11 September, the participants of this event will have an opportunity to closely observe the activities of one of these centers in the framework of the conference’s social programme.
You may agree that in order to provide social cohesion it is not sufficient to solve such problems as unemployment, poverty, education, unequal profits and other similar problems. Guaranteeing social rights to all members of society plays a major role in this process. In this context it is not possible to stay indifferent to external factors hindering social cohesion, including such factors as unresolved military conflicts. I have to mention with regret, that more than twenty years have passed since the fundamental rights of over one million of our population were breached due to an external reason. As a result of the military intervention of Armenia, these people fled their homes and became refugees and IDPs and 20 percent of our territory was occupied. Furthemore the damage to our economy exceeded 60 billion dollars, thousand of infrastructure objects were destroyed, more than 12 thousand people became disabled as a result of war, and the labour resourses playing a decisive role in the progress of society significantly decreased.
Having regard to the above, we support the attempts of the Council of Europe to ensure equal access of everyone, in particular vulnerable groups of population to social rights without any discrimination, and we believe that these issues shall be seriously addressed at the international level.
The Ministry of Labour and Social Protection, that I represent here, is in charge of activity areas covering numerous elements of the concept of social cohesion. These areas include labour relations, the use of labour resourses, protecton of labour, employment of population, demography and location of population, social protection of population, medical and social expertise, rehabilitation of disabled persons and children with limited health abity, assistance to victims of domestic violence and social adaptation of persons released from penitentiary institutions. Having regard to this fact, I would like to re-iterate the importance of new information on existing trends and good practises in the field of social cohesion for the employees of our Ministry, as well as employees of other institutions closely cooperating with our Ministry and participating in the present event.
Furthemore the head of the Department of the Social Security Policy of the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection of Population, Mrs. Sabina Jafarova, will attend the 5th plenary session scheduled for tommorrow and will speak in detail about the targeted social cohesion policy implemented by the Ministry and its experience in this field.
At the end of my speech I would like to re-iterate that Azerbaijan Republic conforms to the principle of social cohesion and pays particular attention to the international cooperation in this field. In 2002 our country ratified the main instrument of the Council of Europe in the field of protection of human rights- the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms; in 2004 it ratified the European Social Charter and established constructive cooperation with appropriate structures of the Council of Europe.
In 2012, at the Second Conference of Ministers responsible for the issues of social cohesion in the Council of Europe’s member states, held in Istanbul, Azerbaijan proposed organization of the next, Third Conference in Baku and participants of the event supported this proposal.
I would like to re-iterate our readiness to host the Third Conference of Ministers responsible for the issues of social cohesion in the Council of Europe’s member states at any appropriate date. I believe that organization of the next Conference of Ministers in Baku will be a logical follow-up to today’s event, and that it can contribute to the further development of an effective dialogue in the field of social cohesion in the framework of the Council of Europe.
Using this opportunity I would like to cordially welcome you all again in Baku and wish you active discussions within the next two days. I hope that these discussions will contribute to summarizing and revising the Strategy for Social Cohesion in 2015.
Let me thank you all for your attention.
Opening speech by
Ambassador Ana Vukadinovic,
Chair of the Ministers’ Deputies’ Rapporteur Group
on Social and Health Questions (GR-SOC)
Ladies and gentlemen,
It is with great pleasure that I am here in Baku for this conference on Social Cohesion organised in the framework of Azerbaijan’s Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers. I should like to thank our hosts for their very warm welcome and the excellent organisation of this event.
Strengthening social cohesion in its member States has long been an objective for the Council of Europe. This is right and proper. But why? We define social cohesion as the capacity for a society to ensure the well-being of all its members: to minimise disparities, to avoid marginalisation, to manage the differences and divisions, to ensure welfare for all. This is of course a tall order. But it is essential if we are to defend the core values of the Council of Europe, if the human dignity of each of us is to be protected and the fundamental values of equality and non-discrimination promoted.
As you are aware, in 2010, the Council of Europe adopted a Social Cohesion Strategy [for 2010-2015] and an Action Plan to support its implementation. This Conference is an opportunity to look at the Strategy and its four pillars and to take stock of where we stand – both with regard to member States and the contribution of the Council of Europe – in the implementation of these documents. It will also allow us to reflect on where the main challenges lie.
The Social Cohesion Strategy and Action Plan encompass a number of issues of concern for the Council of Europe. We have before us a document as to what has been done at the level of the Organisation. I’m sure we will also have some valuable contributions as to what individual member States have achieved – and the challenges they have faced – in their respective territories.
I will just pick up on a couple of topics which are of priority to the Committee of Ministers.
The first is the question of the protection and promotion of social rights. This is a crucial element of the Organisation’s approach to social issues. The Action Plan rightly points out that social rights are essential to generate and maintain social cohesion and solidarity. The work of the Council of Europe is largely based on the implementation of the revised European Social Charter and the Protocol providing for a System of Collective Complaints as well as the European Code of Social Security and its Protocol. These legal instruments are useful tools to identify and remedy shortcomings regarding the protection of social rights in member States. The Committee of Ministers regularly invites those member States that have not yet done so to consider ratifying them.
A High-level Conference on the European Social Charter which will be taking place in Turin next month will discuss the European Social Charter and its application throughout Europe in a period of crisis and in the crisis exit phase. It will look at austerity measures in times of crisis – their impact on social rights
[participation by citizens] and the Charter’s contribution to overcoming the crisis, having regard also to the synergies between the law of the European Union and the provisions of the Charter. The conclusions of this Conference should give concrete food for thought to the Organisation for its future action in the social field.
Austerity policies and their impact on social rights are a question that has also been taken up by the Secretary General in his report on the State of Human Rights, Democracy and the Rule of Law in Europe. As underlined in the report, poverty and social exclusion present obstacles to the enjoyment of a wide range of fundamental rights – economic, social, civil and political.
Therefore tackling poverty must be a top priority for us all.
The second point I would like to refer to is the more general approach of the Council of Europe in the field of social cohesion. In this respect, the Council of Europe, through its toolbox of instruments, has long been supporting member States in putting social cohesion on a broader and sustainable basis. For 2014-2015, the Council of Europe programme is focused on empowering groups of vulnerable persons. The ultimate aim is to achieve socially cohesive societies with strong democratic standards and practices, complementing the Council of Europe’s social rights approach by enabling vulnerable groups of persons to have effective access to social rights and to benefit from them on an equal basis with others.
The programme also aims to empower citizens through networking and sharing of good practices at local and regional level, leading to increased participation and sharing of social responsibilities. It supports member States through specific tools to facilitate the transition of young people from education to the world of work, thus increasing their autonomy and preventing their social exclusion. Lastly, I should also mention the work of the Council of Europe Development Bank which contributes to promoting social cohesion, through the funding of practical projects in member States.
The Council of Europe programme of activities is for you, the member States. I will therefore look forward to hearing your contributions and reactions this morning.
Ladies and gentlemen,
There is no doubt that social cohesion is a concept that is essential for the fulfilment of the core values of the Council of Europe - human rights, democracy and the rule of law.
As the Strategy rightly says, it is also a dynamic process. It is therefore an opportune moment, here in Baku, to look closely at what we have been doing, where we face obstacles and where the Council of Europe has an added value. The importance is to ensure that we identify the main challenges faced by our societies and see how these can be tackled, making the best possible use of the instruments available.
I look forward to our discussions and thank you for your attention.
Speech by Ms Maria Ochoa-Llidó,
Representative of the Council of Europe Secretary General,
Head of the Antidiscrimination and Social Cohesion at DG II “Democracy”
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Let me first of all thank you, Minister, for having invited the CoE to hold this Conference in Baku in the frame of the Azerbaijani Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers. “Ensuring social cohesion and social sustainability: promoting access to human rights of vulnerable groups” is among the priorities of your Chairmanship and this conference to review the Council of Europe Social Cohesion Strategy and Action Plan is part of your comprehensive programme during your 6 month Chairmanship.
Many International Organisations, from UN DESA or UNDP to the OECD or the World Bank refer to Social Cohesion as “the glue that holds society together”.
[Social Cohesion at the CoE]
At the second Summit of Heads of State and Government of the Council of Europe (1997), member states recognized that social cohesion is “one of the foremost needs of the wider Europe and should be pursued as an essential complement to the promotion of human rights and dignity”. In this regard the Council of Europe has done much to promote and develop the concept of social cohesion.
The Committee of Ministers adopted a Social Cohesion Strategy in 2000, revising it in March 2004 and subsequently in July 2010 (New Strategy and Action Plan for Social Cohesion).
Social cohesion has been utilised by policy makers as a guiding idea for the social goals and achievements of Europe. It places the focus on societal well-being and views harmonious and stable social relations as integral to economic and social progress and peaceful co-existence.
Social cohesion is therefore a political concept essential for the fulfilment of the three core values of the Council of Europe (Human Rights, Democracy and Rule of Law). It is defined as the capacity for a society to ensure the well-being of all its members: to minimise disparities, to avoid marginalisation and to manage the differences and divisions with the aim of ensuring welfare for all.
Social cohesion means protecting society from regressive trends, preventing threats to the Council of Europe core values, and ensuring the full participation of all in European societies.
The Social Cohesion Strategy complements the Council of Europe social rights approach, well developed by the European Social Charter mechanisms, by enabling vulnerable groups of persons to have effective access to human rights on an equal basis with others. Social cohesion is consequently considered as a multidimensional societal process, which also takes account of the interests of future generations. All these concepts are enshrined in the Council of Europe New Strategy and Action Plan for Social Cohesion, which reaffirms that social cohesion policies should be based on the following 4 pillars:
1)Reinvesting in social rights and a cohesive society
2)Building a Europe of responsibilities that are both shared and social
3)Strengthening representation and democratic decision-making and expanding social dialogue and civic engagement
4)Building a secure future for all.
The Action Plan for Social Cohesion is based on two complementary approaches: a top-down and a bottom-up approach. The bottom-up approach makes it possible to work closely with groups, which are usually hard to reach such as citizens and their associations in the territories where they are living. It also enables links to be established between other approaches employed at the Council of Europe level by reaching out to final beneficiaries, and by expanding the areas covered to a broader range of themes, which are vital issues when it comes to discrimination, the rights of minorities or other vulnerable groups.
Today, the economic crisis and austerity measures but also the democratic fatigue make social cohesion more necessary than ever. We are now in the 7th consecutive year of deep constraints that have led to increased inequality and vulnerability, as well as a sharp rise of political extremism all over Europe. Middle classes notice reduction in their income, and young people, often well educated, have difficulties in entering the labour market and developing an adult, responsible and independent life. Groups of vulnerable persons are at an increased risk of poverty, marginalization and social exclusion and their access to social rights is problematic.
In other words: inequalities grow and societies face tensions and potential unrest.
In such times, Social Cohesion is particularly important to make the difference.
[Implementation of the Strategy and Action Plan]
So, Ladies and Gentelmen, if Social Cohesion is a must, what has been done, since the adoption by the CM of the New Strategy and Action Plan to promote it?
This Conference is to reply to this question. It is meant to enable all the member states of the CoE to exchange information among peers on the Implementation of the New Strategy and Action Plan for Social Cohesion in their countries and, more importantly, dear participants, to exchange national good practices that have proved efficient in your countries and that could show the way forward to your colleagues in other countries.
Thus, Session 2 will be devoted to presentations of the situation at the national level, followed by a debate that is expected to be lively and challenging.
Session 4 will use the same format and the chair will ask you to comment on the Social policies' evolution in your countries since the adoption of the New Social Cohesion Strategy and Action Plan.
In between, we have Session 3 where Ms Scheele, the Chairperson of the new CD-DECS will tell you about the broad terms of reference of her committee and I will comment the document prepared by the Secretariat that provides a synoptic view of the activities carried out by the Council of Europe during the period 2010-2014 regarding social cohesion.
This document offers an overview of the contribution by Council of Europe sectors to the implementation of the Social Cohesion Strategy and to the promotion of its Action Plan.
Its purpose is to share this information with you and to prepare the review of the 2010 New Strategy and Action Plan for Social Cohesion that is to be completed in 2015.
Since 2010, many Council of Europe activities have been carried out that contribute towards the implementation of the Council of Europe Strategy for Social Cohesion 2010-2015 and to support member states in this challenging endeavour. It is clear that progress in the implementation of the strategic objectives is difficult to measure and their achievement is not within the Council of Europe’s control. However, many of the activities carried out have no doubt made a step towards increasing citizens and other stakeholders’ participation in political decisions concerning the well-being of all and social cohesion priorities in general. They have supported public authorities in identifying and implementing appropriate responses to facilitate the transition of young people to active life, to build a secure future for all and to reduce poverty focusing on full access to human rights.
We know however that despite significant progress made in legal terms, in practice, the full enjoyment of and access to human rights and human dignity is not secured for all.
I therefore encourage you, representatives of the CoE member states, and your authorities to continue focusing on the strategic priorities set out in the New Social Cohesion Strategy and Action Plan and to make full use of the wide range of building blocks that the Council of Europe has to offer in achieving cohesive societies.
I wish us all a very successful meeting.
Key note speech by Ms M. Oreshina, Russian Federation
Dear Excellency, dear chairperson, dear colleagues,
First of all let me express my gratitude to the organizers of our event, who decided to hold this conference under the aegis of the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers chairmanship of the Republic of Azerbaijan.
Under conditions of severe economic and financial crises and cost-cutting policy measures, it is very important for each CoE member state to pay special attention to key social issues, such as social cohesion, dignity, equality, social responsibility, social cooperation, protection of rights of vulnerable/disadvantage groups of citizens – the elderly, children, unemployed youth, disabled persons.
I believe that all these problems will be crucial in our discussions during our plenary sessions and at the same time our headache. Regarding our agenda, we need to exchange ideas, views, best practices in CoE member states and finally to find a balance in the face of challenges and threats,
How can we avoid marginalisation, minimise disparities, how can we manage differences and divisions? How can we make equal access to education, social services, quality health care, the labour market? How can we eradicate passivity, alienation and exclusion?
And in the end how can we give hope to people to realize their dreams, and to realize their dreams through their children’s? How can we help men and women not to lose forever their way towards a better future, to find hope and not just simply survive?
When searching for solutions to these problems we should pinpoint priorities in our Action plan and middle-term Work schedule.
In June the European Committee for Social Cohesion, Human Dignity and Equality (CDDECS)held its first meeting to discuss the work schedule and formulate Work Priorities for 2014-2015.
The Council of Europe elaborated a stable terminology framework for our further tasks. We know perfectly well the meaning of social cohesion, social mobility, inter-generational mobility, disadvantaged (vulnerable) groups.
We have strong conventional instruments – the European Convention on Human Rights, the European Code of Social Security, the European Social Charter, which will be the subject for discussions in the forthcoming conference in October this year in Turin, Italy. Let's thank in advance the Italian Presidency of the European Union for its joint efforts in close cooperation with the Council of Europe to take extremely important steps for the whole of Europe to discuss fundamental social rights. The time has come. It's time to act!
In the light of a recent article by Nils Muižnieks, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, «Youth human rights at risk during the crisis” and his statement "Building a secure future for all" at the 2nd Council of Europe Conference of Ministers responsible for Social Cohesion, Istanbul, Turkey, 11-12 October 2012, we should discuss the problem of age (not elderly, but AGE) and the so-called anti-age discrimination in relation to youth.
We should focus on the long-term problem of chronic unemployment among youth, which is the most common pathology of many European countries implementing austerity measures.
We express our main concerns towards hushing up the violation of the social and economic rights of young people that are being undermined, ignoring problems of their transition from education to work, their right to education, participation and non-discrimination, their equal treatment, their equal access to social and health services.
The rights-based approach will help to avoid social inequality, the erosion of the middle class, the process of considerably expanding the vulnerability of people due to youth unemployment, their marginalization, and exclusion from social and economic life, the crisis caused by permanent deep cuts budget cuts, and reduce the risk of the creation of a “lost generation”.
According to the CoE Programme and Budget 2014-2015, which was adopted last year in the course of the 1185th (Budget) meeting of the Ministers' Deputies, the Council of Europe is firmly committed to the promotion of social cohesion. Many groups of particularly vulnerable persons still encounter obstacles in effectively enjoying their social rights and benefiting from them as other groups do. In times of financial and economic crises and cost-cutting measures within the CoE member states, the dangers of marginalization and social exclusion rise dramatically and sharply. This is especially true for young people whose transition from education to working life also risks generating a rift between generations and shaking the foundations of the social fabric.
Recognizing the urgent necessity to save resources and not duplicate work in cooperation with other relevant CoE bodies and international organizations in the light of the consensual Recommendation of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe 2027 (2013) ‘synergies not duplication’, it should be possible and indeed is extremely necessary when dealing with social issues, to use a parity base, concerning well-proportioned and well-balanced financing of all specific thematic areas on our future agenda (social cohesion, national and linguistic minorities, migrants, children, child victims of violence, women victims of violence, women's access to justice, rights of persons with disabilities, elderly, gender equality and gender mainstreaming).
Even in conditions of zero nominal growth of the CoE budget 2014-2015, we should not defer from our obligations and priorities in the sphere of social responsibility, social solidarity, social protection, promotion of human dignity. Our efforts towards achieving goals should not be reflected only in the headings of programmes, projects and “road maps”. There should be activity, concrete steps.
In the course of the chairmanship of the Russian Federation in the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe (May-November 2006) and during the CoE Conference of Ministers responsible for social cohesion “Investing in Social cohesion – investing in stability and the well-being of society”, which was held in Moscow on the 26th-27th of February, 2009, we expressed the idea of building a more humane Europe, supporting inter-generation solidarity, sustainable development and political stability. I suppose that our ideas are not outdated.
During the 2nd CoE Conference of Ministers responsible for social cohesion “Building a secure future for all”, which was held in Istanbul on 11th-12th October, 2012, problems of the protection of young people were discussed. This is first of all a demographic group with specific needs between childhood and adulthood, but on the issue of youth unemployment it is a vulnerable group. The promotion of job-saving measures, the creation of decent employment opportunities and insuring income sustainability through adequate economic and social policies, the achievement of social sustainability through intergenerational solidarity, the protection and empowerment of groups of vulnerable persons, particularly in times of crises were the main pillars of our joint agenda for social cohesion. And we supported it.
So, we should not turn away from social issues, attempting to substitute them by an anti-discrimination agenda.
Sustainable, cohesive, co-responsible, cooperation-based development is impossible without the young generation, which needs a secure future. Social security in CoE member states is a keystone to a successful way of life without irreversible social upheavals and shifts, social tensions, which lead to an undermining of the fabric of society, intolerance, terrorism and extremism.
PLENARY SESSION 2:
Implementation of the Council of Europe New Strategy and Action Plan for Social Cohesion in Member states, and exchange of national good practices.
Ladies and gentlemen,
(first of all I would like to echo words of thanks to the Azerbaijan authorities for hosting this conference at this very impressive venue, enabling an exchange in the field of social cohesion).
The New Strategy and Council of Europe Action Plan for Social Cohesion were early responses to the multidimensional challenges of the last years and provided useful policy guidelines.
Traditionally, Austria’s social policy strategy has the goal of ensuring social cohesion of all parts of society and all its members. The corresponding current political strategy is included in the Austrian government’s work programme for the period 2013-2018.
The main focuses of the Austrian government’s work programme for the period 2013-2018 include growth and employment, investment in education, and measures to safeguard the existence of the successful welfare state while being fair between the generations and sound state finances.
The Austrian welfare state creates chances of participation for all, thus strengthening the peaceful cohesion of society. It is a positive factor in our surroundings by promoting prosperity and productivity.
We are therefore convinced to act for strengthening well-being for all and set social policy-measures in the sense of The New Strategy and Council of Europe Action Plan for Social Cohesion with a variety of measures:
According to the first pillar of the strategy calling for “Reinvesting in social rights and a cohesive society”
I want to highlight that Austria finally ratified the revised European Social Charter in 2011. Additionally, a committee was set up to discuss further ratifications.
Furthermore, a variety of policy measures with the goal to increase social inclusion were set:
priority is to raise the care rate for under-threes to 33%.
The second and third pillar of the Social Cohesion Strategy (“Building a Europe with shared social responsibilities” and “Strengthening representation and the democratic decision making process and developing social dialogue and civic engagement”, respectively) address shared responsibilities, and citizens’ capacity for action in the context of social cohesion.
In this context, I want to mention our measures set for voluntary engagement with its highly participatory characteristics. Voluntary engagement is indispensable for a socially cohesive society - but cannot be taken for granted. 46% of Austrians aged 15 years or older are engaged in formal voluntary activities in different fields such as: disaster relief and emergency services, culture or entertainment, environment, natural- or animal welfare, church and religious education, social and health education, sports, etc.
the legislative basis for the structures for the promotion of voluntary work in Austria.
The forth pillar of the Strategy, “Building a secure future for all”, addresses a currently very important topic.
One of the Austrian Federal Government's current priorities is to optimise and further saveguard the prospects for young people
current measures aim to increasingly promote the social integration of young people, their education/ training and their integration into the labour market.
and invalidity pensions to ensure sustainability and adequacy of our pension system. The current targets focus on closing the gap between the statutory and effective retirement. Several additional projects continue to address the topics of prevention and rehabilitation. These measures will show their full effect in the coming years. A path and timetable with appropriate measures for increasing the rate of employment among older persons as well as the actual retirement age were already defined and agreed.
However, I do not want to go beyond the scope of the discussion.
The entire message should be clear. Austria fully supports the New Strategy and the Council of Europe
Action Plan for Social Cohesion, its recommendations and principles.
Just as an aside: Austria also provides a German version of the New Strategy and Action plan, which was translated in cooperation with the German colleagues.
As it could not be represented at the Conference in Baku, Belgium wanted to make a written contribution in order to stress the importance of the initiatives the Council of Europe has taken in favour of social cohesion since 1998.
The Council of Europe has taken valuable actions with its definition of social cohesion, the Social Cohesion Strategy, its Action Plan for social cohesion and the SPIRAL methodological approach. For the last decade, these actions have had a significant impact on social policies in Belgium.
The objective of social cohesion, as defined by the Council of Europe (social cohesion is the ability of society to ensure the welfare of all, with the least possible inequalities), is not incompatible with the objective of the fight against poverty in the European Union, but gives it another dimension. From an upstream position and from the perspective of sustainability of the proposed solutions: eradicating poverty as such is not the only goal. It is also important to progress towards a society that no longer generates exclusion and poverty and ensures the well-being of all, not only by distributing the resources more equitably, but also by taking all the material and immaterial dimensions of well-being, as expressed by the citizens, into consideration.
Belgium fully supports this logic and has, moreover, developed its own action plans in the various federated entities, such as the Social Cohesion Plan in the cities and towns of Wallonia, which is inspired by the strategy of the Council of Europe. In a context of increasing insecurity and exclusion, the Social Cohesion Plan aims to coordinate and develop a range of initiatives in the municipalities, enabling everyone to live in dignity in Wallonia. The goal is to ensure access to medical care, employment, housing, culture and education for all citizens, in an inclusive society that respects all individuals. In Wallonia, the Social Cohesion Plan 2014-2019 mobilizes several hundreds of workers who form a network between thousands of public and private partners, in order to act in favour of greater social cohesion within their municipality. The recent participatory evaluation of the SCP 2009-2013 was also based on the SPIRAL methodology of the Council of Europe, which made it possible to take into account more than 5,000 contributions of partners and beneficiaries for the evaluation of the results and impacts of the Plan on the well-being of the citizens.
In the Flemish Community, the Social Cohesion Action Plan of the Council of Europe is implemented through the Flemish Action Plan for Poverty Reduction, the development of the Local Social Policies and the continued attention and efforts for the automatic granting of social rights. The Flemish Action Plan for Poverty Reduction 2010-2014 aims to tackle all aspects of poverty and social exclusion. There are objectives for each of the fundamental social rights: participation, social services, income, family, education, leisure, work, housing and health. The action plan was drawn up with the participation of the target groups, the social actors and the advisory bodies, in partnership with the Flemish Anti-Poverty Network. In order to give all residents of a municipality effective access to fundamental social rights, the municipalities and public social welfare centres develop a local social policy together. Obviously, the inhabitants of the municipality are closely involved in the development of the local social policy. If residents have questions about the social services in their community, neighbourhood or district, they can go to the Social House of their municipality. The Social House informs people about their social rights and, if necessary, refers them to the appropriate service. The online "Law Explorer", which lists the social benefits and allowances which people can claim, is a very useful tool in this respect. However, for a number of years, the Flemish Community has endeavoured to automatically grant as many social rights as possible.
To conclude, in line with the orientation of shared responsibility for the well-being of all, which the Council of Europe promotes in the context of its Social Cohesion Strategy, the Social Cohesion Plan of the Walloon municipalities has opened the way for a new approach to social problems, which is essential for defying the crisis. In coming years, the Flemish government also intends to further implement the Social Cohesion Plan by taking structural initiatives on poverty prevention and poverty development, with a focus on child poverty, generational poverty and the involvement of people living in poverty. In addition, the Flemish Government and Wallonia will further develop the automatic granting of social rights.
For Belgium, it is therefore essential that beyond 2015, the Council of Europe maintains its focus on social cohesion in a transversal, prospective and co-responsible perspective, and that it launches a new strategy for 2016-2019, which is adapted to the social and economic challenges we are faced with, in order to enable us to build a united and cohesive society together.
The global economic crisis poses a severe threat to human rights. Croatia is confronting economic crisis and recession for the fifth year in a row. The crisis has had a particular impact on the rights of women, children, vulnerable and marginalized persons. Unfortunately, the situation has been additionally aggravated by recent floods that have particularly affected agricultural and less developed areas. The Government is focusing its attention to help those affected and facilitate restoration of normal life.
Despite a period of negative occurrences, Croatia has been making considerable efforts to ensure human rights and social cohesion in every respect.
In this context, the National Programme of Protection and Promotion of Human Rights for the Period 2013-2016 should be mentioned. This is a strategic document setting priorities, proposing measures and directing efforts to improve the protection and promotion of human rights and social cohesion. The Programme embraces the protection and promotion of human rights at local, national, regional and international levels. Its priorities cover a wide range of issues - from gender equality, combating all types of discrimination, free legal aid, protection of personal data, religious rights and freedoms, freedom of the media, special protection of the family, rights of children, young, persons with disabilities, homeless persons - to the right to a healthy life and environment, combating corruption and human trafficking, education for human rights and democratic upbringing and promotion of human rights in the educational system.
Additionally, a number of acts with a significant impact on the protection of human rights have been adopted or improved. Among these are: the Anti-Discrimination Act, the Free Legal Aid Act, the new Gender Equality Act, Constitutional Act on the Rights of National Minorities, the Same Sex Union Act, the Act on the National Preventative Mechanism for the Prevention of Torture and Other Forms of Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment.
The Constitution of the Republic of Croatia was changed. The Constitution determines that two institutions are tasked with guaranteeing the implementation of human rights: the Ombudsman and the Constitutional Court. The Ombudsman is a person authorized by the Croatian Parliament to promote and protect human rights and freedoms. Anyone can bring their complaints regarding the functioning of state bodies, local and regional administration bodies and bodies with public authorities to the Ombudsman if they believe that these bodies’ illegal or irregular functioning has violated their constitutional or legal rights. The Constitutional Court of the Republic of Croatia is the highest body that constitutionally guarantees the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms of citizens.
With the new Act on Free Legal Aid we ensure the right of access to courts for those who otherwise would not be able to afford legal protection, being one of the fundamental human rights.
Above all, the progress that has been achieved has been systematic, spanning the fields of sensitizing the public to different problems. In 2012 and 2013 numerous campaigns, conferences, seminars and consultations focused on the prevention of violence against women, empowering women, and promoting the rights and social inclusion of the most vulnerable groups.
Croatia had the honour to be the host of the High-Level Conference on the implementation of the Council of Europe Strategy for the Rights of the Child 2012-2015 in Dubrovnik in March this year. The event gathered over 250 participants from 40 Member States. It showed the progress achieved within the two years of implementation of the Strategy, proposed priority actions to be undertaken and helped identifying critical issues for the Council of Europe action after 2015.
A new strategic document for the rights of the child is being drafted for the period 2014 -2020.
The Act on Ratification of the Council of Europe Convention on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse has been adopted. From 2013 measures of reporting, protection and combating criminal offences of sexual exploitation and abuse are fully implemented in the Criminal Code.
The National Strategy of Protection against Family Violence is in force for the period 2011-2016. Based on the Constitution of the Republic of Croatia and international instruments of protection of human rights it also relates to the provisions of the Istanbul Convention introducing non-discriminatory legislation and ensuring equal rights for women and men which Republic of Croatia has signed in 2013.
Social exclusion is most commonly associated with terms such as poverty, unemployment, inequality and discrimination, pointing in this way to the issue of exercising human rights. In order to better target our efforts towards effective measures to combat poverty, in compliance with the Europe 2020 Strategy, Croatia adopted the Strategy for Combating Poverty and Social Exclusion for the period 2014 to 2020.
Data point to great social differences and a restricted access to opportunities. It is an obligation of the state and society to question the causes that lead to such a situation and ensure the conditions and active policy measures for the improvement of the living conditions for all.
The conditions of a long-term crisis, poverty and social exclusion can no longer be considered a problem of only one part of the society considered marginal. It is a threat to all layers of society and all generations. Social cohesion recognises the right of citizens to using the civilizational legacies of the society they live in, and are created and implemented through social welfare programmes and activities of various stakeholders.
Citizens expect their governments to provide justice, protection and fairness with full respect for fundamental rights and the rule of law. This also requires joint European action, based on shared values. All governments on the national and local level should focus their efforts to ensure that all people are aware of the rights they are entitled to and the possibilities to exercise them in a clear and transparent way. This implies accountability on both sides as well as means of recourse should the response not be implemented properly.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The Czech Republic - as many other countries – faced a dilemma when the economic crisis came. The question was: should we choose austerity or should we stimulate the economy to return to growth?
When a new Government was formed after elections in 2010, the priority was given to austerity. Seen in retrospect, however, the austerity measures in the social system seem to be rather moderate.
More importantly, the impact of those measures on the aggregate indicators was quite small. There were 15.3 per cent of people at risk of poverty and social exclusion in 2008. In 2012, this indicator was 15.4 per cent. In numbers, it means nearly 1.6 million people.
To a large extent, the good numbers at the macro-level have been caused by the cash transfers within the social protection systems. The social protection expenditure amounts to some 20 per cent of the GDP which makes our system quite cost-effective in comparison with many European countries.
Why such a negligible impact of the austerity measures? Part of the explanations is that the government focused on better targeting of various benefits instead of abolishing them or lowering the amounts. That means that some benefits became income-tested. Another example: a rather complex system of about 10 benefits for persons with disabilities which were to cover such needs as adjustment of an apartment or a car, purchase of special aids was replaced by two benefits covering the same needs. Such steps increased transparency of the system and decreased the administrative burden.
This was good news. We have also bad experiences to share. The previous Government wanted also to streamline the administration in the labour and social protection field. The intention – to lower the costs and to strengthen the link between the social and labour parts of our work – was good. The outcome, however, wasn’t.
What happened? In 2011, the previous 77 Labour Offices that had operated on the district level merged into one organization – the Labour Office of the Czech Republic. Such a great change, however well-prepared, naturally brings about many problems not thought of before they unveil.
Frankly speaking, the organizational change was made in a hurry. What was worse, it was not the only one. In 2012, the Labour Office was given the task to handle all non-contributory social benefits. Despite this large additional workload, the number of employees stood at the level of 2010. And yet it was not all. All the IT systems were replaced by new ones. Each new system – even a flawless one - needs time to settle. Unfortunately, the new IT systems were far, far from being flawless - and that coupled with all the other changes I have already mentioned.
It was only the countless overtime hours and efforts of all the staff that kept the Labour Office going. However, in 2012, there was a large drop in the Labour Office performance with regard to an active labour market policy. The lesson is clear: Look before you leap.
Since 2012, the situation has been gradually improving but not all the problems have been solved so far. The fact, that the country now has had its fifth Minister (of labour and social affairs) since elections in 2010, has prevented any strategic decisions to be taken so far.
Yes, the fifth Minister in four years. And the third Government, as Petr Nečas’ Government fell in July 2013 and an interim Government was appointed then. We had elections in October last year. The current Government was appointed in January and has another three years ahead. There are many pressing challenges to address.
The logical one is the further stabilisation of the Labour Office of the Czech Republic. In the previous months, the number of positions in the Labour Office was increased by 1 300 in total and a further increase is envisaged.
There are other challenges. For example, the Czech Republic lacks clear rules of social housing and has been criticised for it – sometimes also from the Council of Europe. Social housing is indeed an area where the Czech Republic has a lot to do. Currently, we have no effective comprehensive policy in this regard. The Government therefore declared that it will prepare a Law on Social Housing. A working group with experts sent by various stakeholders has been established to draft the main principles of such a law. We know that the law will not solve everything but it will be a necessary first step.
At the beginning, I have mentioned the aggregate numbers which can tell how effective the social protection system is at the national level. The macro numbers look good but what about the individuals? We all know that cash benefits only solve just a part of the problems for the people at risk of social exclusion – or already excluded. They need also other forms of assistance.
In the following years, we will therefore address this aspect. For instance, the recently approved Social Inclusion Strategy 2020 (of the Czech Republic) puts emphasis on the promotion of social work – with regard to quality as well as quantity. The Strategy envisages a large increase in the number of social workers. We also want to give clear rules regarding the requirements, training, and defining of the role of a social worker.
Social work goes hand-in-hand with social services. This area is also other priority for us. The transformation of institutional care already in place will continue. Moreover, a large amendment to the Social Services Act will be drafted during 2015. All the stakeholders – the State, regions, municipalities and NGOs - are being consulted which would enable us to prepare a well-balanced draft.
As you can see, the priorities of the Czech Government now reflect more the Council of Europe Strategy for Social Cohesion. The challenge ahead is to put our plans into reality. If we succeed, our society will be more cohesive and inclusive than today but even then we should keep in mind that preserving and strengthening social cohesion is a never-ending process.
Thank you for your attention.
It has been a political insight for many years in Germany that our societies have a structural need for social cohesion. That’s why we highly estimate and strongly support the corresponding activities carried out by the Council of Europe. The Strategy and Action Plan for Social Cohesion, launched in 2010, are a very good and solid basis to work on. Their message is that welfare states have to shelter the social and economic existence of people who are poor or live in precarious circumstances.
Germany is very active in creating social cohesion. To give an example: with its latest poverty and wealth report dating from November 2012 the Federal Government clearly improved and intensified the awareness for the necessity of social cohesion and activities to combat poverty and social exclusion. The report concludes: “Key to the prevention of poverty is more education and employment. All efforts must be geared to reaching full employment.”
Due to our federal structure the sustainable prevention of poverty and the objective of social inclusion in Germany can however only be achieved jointly and with all players from civil society on the basis of the National Integration Plan.
The Strategy and Action Plan for Social Cohesion of the Council of Europe have an overarching approach in the various fields of social participation and give the chance to make use of synergy effects. This tool and the declarations of Moscow (2009) and Istanbul (2012) are important guidelines for the dynamic and constructive process of creating social cohesion in Germany.
Excellencies, dear colleagues,
First I would like to thank our Azerbaijani friends for their warm hospitality and congratulate them for having organized this Conference in such an excellent manner.
Regarding Greece, I should note that my country’s Authorities fully recognize the paramount importance of social cohesion policies for building stable and prosperous societies.
In the light of the relevant Council of Europe framework and along the lines of EU’s “Europe 2020 Strategy”, Greece has set up a plan, since 2008, in order to promote intelligent, inclusive and sustainable social development.
This plan comprised, inter alia, the following measurable goals:
In 2010, the impact of the notorious economic crisis was more than obvious and it constituted a factor that radically changed the state of play. Albeit our primary objective was to further develop our social cohesion policies, the lack of resources due to austerity complicated the situation. Consequently, serious efforts had to be made in order to even maintain the existing standards in the field, since responding to the growing social needs, while trying to ensure the viability of public finances, has been a serious challenge.
Recently, the Greek economy has been showing encouraging signs of recovery, as a net budgetary surplus was presented for the first time. It is rather evident that the gradual improvement of our public finances can provide a certain margin in order to further reinforce social cohesion actions.
Keeping this in mind, our present efforts are focused on alleviating the social impact of the economic crisis. Actually, we’re implementing a number of employment support measures, as well as a set of income redistribution measures in favour of vulnerable population groups. I should also note the ongoing effort to restructure our existing social welfare system by improving the accuracy and the efficiency of the actions taken.
Regarding the priorities of our strategy and the measures recently taken by Greece, the following should be mentioned:
I represent Luxembourg, a country with one of the highest GDPs in Europe, and which has a reputation for being well-off. In such a context, is a social cohesion or inclusion strategy a toy for the rich or a social necessity?
To begin with, a few figures to show that the financial and economic situation in Luxembourg is not as enviable as might be imagined at first sight.
Economic activity is to a large extent linked to the banking and investment funds sector. However, since the recent banking crisis which led to a general financial crisis, it is not hard to see the danger that this represents for a monolithic economy. The unemployment rate stands at 7% but in reality it is much higher in view of the fact that this region has a large number of cross-border workers who live in the neighbouring countries but work in Luxembourg. It is these cross-border residents who are primarily affected by unemployment, but they are not included in the national statistics. Purchasing power is falling and in short, we too, like other countries, are locked in this context of general public debt crisis, and are required to reduce deficits and comply with the criteria laid down under the single currency system, the euro. In this context, all public sectors and ministerial departments are being asked to make budgetary cuts and clearly, the sights are set first of all on the social department.
However, the most positive aspect of our effort to implement the social cohesion strategy has been to once again highlight and reassert the approach that the social field in general, and social security in particular, should not be analysed as a cost, but as a medium-term and long-term investment and, above all, a stabilising factor for society which will be of benefit, to a considerable extent, to the middle classes.
In the social cohesion context, we have sought to redefine the functioning of our social protection system, while clearly setting out the operational parameters of the three levels of action, namely, social security, social welfare and social assistance.
The idea behind our social security system is that the payment of contributions creates rights to lost income replacement benefits in the event of illness, invalidity, accident, unemployment, old age, etc. The lost income replacement benefit rate has been maintained at a high level, with the precise aim of enabling social security to play its role as an economic stabiliser by ensuring that citizens’ living standards are not devastated by social risks.
However, conscious of the fact that the social security mechanism is unable to provide satisfactory solutions to those who are in a less stable situation or a less regular occupational activity, we have rethought our social welfare system, based on a guaranteed income, i.e. a minimum revenue, so that people are not obliged to live in poverty. Accordingly, the conditions under which the guaranteed minimum income is granted have been made more consistent.
However, when conditions for granting this benefit are imposed, such as gender, availability for work, age, and length of residence, then there will always be people who do not fulfil these conditions.
Which is why we have introduced a third safety net, i.e. social assistance, under which local authorities are obliged to assist, in a pragmatic way, those in need, according to their individual circumstances.
With regard to access to rights, a fundamental pillar of the social cohesion strategy, we have abandoned the concept of discretionary powers for the granting of rights in the field of social assistance and have established a more secure framework for our mechanisms of action, including the provision of remedies before the courts.
Concerning the fourth pillar of the Council of Europe’s social cohesion strategy, namely “building a secure future for all”, focusing in particular on investment in children and young people, there have been some interesting developments.
In the general context requiring economic competitiveness and encouraging states to reduce labour costs and the indirect charges which weigh heavily on employers, in order to stimulate employment, we have not escaped the phenomenon experienced by all countries in Europe, namely a reduction in the contributions paid by employers.
In Luxembourg, this trend has been particularly acute for family benefits where the contribution rate has been cut to 0%.
Nonetheless, in order to ensure a target family policy for children and young people through the allocation of benefits in kind and in cash, a new contribution paid by citizens is to be established. It is called “contribution to investment in future generations”. The proceeds from this contribution for the future of our children go directly to the National Family Benefits Fund, i.e. to the different family benefits it manages. Legally speaking, there is no denying the fact that this is indeed a new tax for a well-defined purpose: inter-generational solidarity in the context of an increasingly ageing population.
Finally, a conclusion regarding our social cohesion strategy in three phases:
- social cohesion is an investment and not a burden
- focusing on all societal and budgetary priorities solely from an economic perspective would inevitably undermine social well-being
and above all
- solidarity with and assistance to those in need should not remain mere words of political discourse, but should be reflected in everyday life. This is why we are supporting the Council of Europe’s activities in its social cohesion strategy.
REPUBLIC OF MOLDOVA
Since the Republic of Moldova’s accession to the Council of Europe (1995), highly efficient collaboration has been developed in achieving the major objectives of the Organization in the field of human rights, justice, democracy and social rights, guided by fundamental documents of the Council of Europe, in establishing the rule of law, promoting democratic reforms, improving democratic, legal and social institutions and mechanisms, and achieving legal and social justice, decent and fair working and living conditions in the Republic of Moldova.
The Republic of Moldova committed itself to realizing objectives in the field of human rights, respect for dignity and equality by implementing the Council of Europe Action Plan on Supporting the Democratic reforms in Republic of Moldova (recently launched), by national institutions, under the aegis of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and European Integration.
Human Rights objectives are implemented through the National Action Plan on Human Rights. National legislation is constantly reviewed and adjusted to international standards and requirements of the Council of Europe and international practices.
The Republic of Moldova implements democratic reforms guided by recommendations and decisions of the Parliamentary Assembly and the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe within the framework of the Council of Europe Action Plan on honoring the committments of the Republic of Moldova to the Council of Europe. Social Rights in the Republic of Moldova are observed in conformity with the revised European Social Charter, ratified by Republic of Moldova in September 2001.
Social cohesion objectives are achieved through implementation of the country objectives in the social field, guided by the national legal framework and the European Strategy and Action Plan in the field of Social Cohesion of the Council of Europe, launched in the Republic of Moldova in 2010 and supported by other relevant documents of the organization, such as:
- Rec (2006)5 and Council of Europe Action Plan in the field of Disability, launched in the Republic of Moldova on 3 December 2007, the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, implemented through country Strategy on social inclusion of people with disabilities and its Action Plan and other relevant national documents.
In the same context, the Republic of Moldova signed (2007) and ratified in 2010 the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (Law nr. 166-XVIII of 09.07.2010). Therefore the two relevant European and international documents in the field aim at promoting and protecting the rights of persons with disabilities and serve to complement ongoing adjustments and the improvement of the national legal framework for the enforcement of fundamental human rights, promoting the principles of non-discrimination, equality and human dignity. In this context, the outdated legal framework in the field of disability has been revised and a new law drafted: the Law on Social Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities (No. 60, adopted on 30.03.2012).
The Strategic objectives of the Council of Europe are implemented in coordination and permanent cooperation with central and local public administrative bodies and NGOs active in the social field, with which are concluded Memoranda of cooperation. They are kept informed and familiarised with the objectives of the Council of Europe on fundamental human and social rights.
Relevant Council of Europe documents and recommendations are translated into national languages and disseminated to national actors. Common actions are agreed and implemented.
In November 2012, based on the Declaration of Istanbul, after the Second Ministerial Conference in Istanbul on Social Cohesion, Mrs. Valentina BULIGA, the Minister of Labour, Social Protection and Family, launched the Civic Platform in the field of social cohesion on wide implementation at national level of the social cohesion objectives, guided by the relevant documents and recommendations of PACE and the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers.
A number of Council of Europe documents have been translated and communicated to national actors, integrated and implemented at national level, these are:
- Rec (2014) 1 of the Council of Europe European Charter on shared social responsibilities, adopted on 22 January 2014, by the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers. This document regarding social rights and shared responsibilities for creating a prosperous state of law, based on social cohesion and social solidarity, responsibility and pluralism, was recently translated and communicated to all national actors and stakeholders involved in this process. The provisions of the Recommendation will be integrated into relevant national documents and applied nationally, in terms of national and sectoral action plans. Social cohesion and social responsibility, social justice and social security, removing social and economic disparities, eliminating corruption and establishing justice and the application of democratic principles - are key elements for sustainable development and the rule of the state of law.
- Rec (2012) 6 on the Rights of Women and Girls with Disabilities,
- Rec (2011) 14 on the Participation of Persons with Disabilities in political and public life;
- CM Rec (2013) 2 on Ensuring full integration of children and youth with disabilities in society (adopted by the Committee of Ministers on October 16, 2013) etc.,
At the request of the Council of Europe, opinions were submitted and answers given to the Council of Europe Questionaires on national achievements in various fields, on challenges and the existing problems and future plans. The Council of Europe Questionnaire on emergencies and integration of Persons with Disabilities in safeguarding policies in risk situations, was completed according to the European and Mediterranean Major Hazards Agreement, in the light of the Council of Europe Disability Action Plan and Article 11 of the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities, which states that "Member States shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection and safety of persons with disabilities in situations of risk, including occurrence of natural calamities and disasters".
In the Child Policies Field:
- The provisions of CM/Rec (2011)12 of the Council of Europe on Child rights and child-friendly social services, were integrated into legislation; relevant documents and national strategies on children's rights are successfully implemented in Moldova. The Ministry of Labour, Social Protection and Family has launched a wide-ranging reform in child protection. In June 2014, the Government approved the Strategy for Child and Family Protection 2014 – 2020. An action plan to implement the Strategy will be developed.
To ensure a special legal framework of protection and monitoring of children without parental care, the Act on special protection of children at risk and children separated from their parents was promoted. It was adopted by Parliament, by Law no. 140 of 14 June 2013, which entered into force starting on January 1, 2014. Guidelines, were approved by Government Decision no. 270 of 08.04.2014, on intersectoral cooperation mechanisms for the identification, assessment, referral, assistance and monitoring of child victims and potential victims of violence, neglect, exploitation and trafficking, aimed at implementing tools for special protection of children at risk. In 2013, the Ministry of Labour, Social Protection and Family developed and approved the Rules and Minimum Quality Standards on the organization and functioning of the free helpline for children (116111). As of June 4, 2014 the hotline telephone Service for children (116111) provides information, psycho-emotional counselling and advice on child protection.
In the field of gender and gender equality policies:
The Republic of Moldova is committed to achieve Council of Europe objectives în the field of equality and the Beijing Platform and the Millennium Development Goals, through multiple actions, ensuring equal opportunities between women and men.
Since 2010 the following have been approved and implemented: the National Programme for Gender Equality 2010-2015 (Government Decision no. 933 of 31.12.2009); the National Strategy on employment policies for 2007-2015 (approved by Government Decision no. 605 of 31 May 2007), which is mainly focused on equality between women and men and the advancement of women; the National programme to ensure gender equality for 2010-2015 and the Action Plan for implementation of the Programme during 2013-2015; the National Action Plan on Human Rights for 2011-2014 approved by Parliament Decision no. 90 of 12.05.2011; the National Decentralization Strategy and Action Plan on the implementation of the national Strategy of decentralization for 2012-2015.
Under the aegis of the UN and Council of Europe activities, the Republic of Moldova improved the national legal framework and developed internationally adjusted normative and legislative acts: Law no. 5 of 09.02.2006 on equal opportunities between women and men; Law No. 45 of 01. 03.2007 on preventing and combating violence; Law no. 168 of 09.07.2010 on amending and supplementing the Labour Code of the Republic of Moldova; Law no. 121 of 25.05.2012 on ensuring equality, the provisions of which pinpoint the forms of discrimination and preventive actions, as well as prohibition of discrimination in the employment, education and access to services and goods available to the public. The law contains the institutional framework for preventing and combating discrimination and ensuring equality and the competences and powers of public authorities.
The Act no. 167 of 09.07.2010 on amending and supplementing certain acts, which introduced improvements to the legal framework related to family violence – the Criminal Code, Family Code, Criminal Procedure Code, Civil Procedure Code and the Law on Police, broadened the terms of ”family member" and "domestic violence”; had specified penalties for sexual harassment and measures of protection for victims of domestic violence. The system for preventing and combating cases of domestic violence is becoming more efficient. The opportunity of signing by the Republic of Moldova of the European Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and the domestic violence (CAHVIO) will be examined. The implementation mechanism of the Law no.45-XVI from 01.03.2007 on Preventing and combating domestic violence has been improved. In the same context, the inter-ministerial Coordinating Council on preventing and combating domestic violence was established under Law No. 45-XVI of 01.03.2007 on Preventing and Combating Domestic Violence for implementation of Government Decision no. 72 of 07.02.2012. The Ministry of Labour, Social Protection and Family provides its functionality through coordination of actions of the ministries and other central administrative authorities with competence in the field.
For adjusting to, and implementing advanced international and European standards and practices, special emphasis is placed on co-operation with relevant international organizations: UN, CoE, EU, International Labor Organisation, OSCE, International Migration Organisation, etc
The Republic of Moldova has ratified over 40 ILO Conventions, reporting on a yearly basis, which complemented and improved the national mechanisms on adjusting the national legal framework to international standards, monitor the implementation of national objectives in various fields, respecting fundamental human rights, social rights and promote social cohesion, by collaboration of all stakeholders: central and local public authorities, the national social partners - National Confederation of Trade Unions of the Republic of Moldova and the National Confederation of Employers of the Republic of Moldova and the civil society.
The Republic of Moldova signed and ratified the Association Agreement with the European Union, which entered into force for the Republic of Moldova on 1st September 2014, by which the Republic of Moldova is commiting itself to harmonizing the national legal framework to European standards in all fields covered by the Agreement, inclusively in the field of labour and social protection, and to engage fully in the implementation of the Organisation’s objectives, the Directives and Strategies, inclusively, in the field of social cohesion, for obtaining the status of member state of the European Union in the near future.
In the field of Social Security, the Republic of Moldova concluded 10 Social Security Agreements with European States, based on principles of reciprocity (these are: Luxembourg, Portugal, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Romania, Estonia, Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary) for protecting the citizens of both sides from possible social risks in the territory of their countries. Agreements with Lithuania, Latvia, Turkey and Israel are being negociated.
The Council of Europe’s achievements in implementing human rights, including social rights, and in highlighting the importance social cohesion are very much appreciated everywhere. The Social Cohesion Strategy and its Action Plan are examples of these efforts.
The basis of Polish social policy
Polish social policy draws, among other things, on international instruments and, in particular, the European Social Charter, and on other equally important orientation documents and recommendations such as the Strategy.
Polish social policy is defined in the “Medium-term national development strategy 2020” and the “Long-term national development strategy, Poland 2030”. The aim is to ensure inclusive economic growth and the development of human capital.
The measures currently being taken, and about which I will talk in a moment, were drawn up in the light of the solutions adopted in a number of Council of Europe member states.
Social inclusion and investment
Over the last few years the priority of Polish social policy has been the family. As the result of a study of the situation of families and people belonging to specific groups the following priorities were established:
-improving access to resources, rights and services to prevent and eradicate social exclusion,
-preventing all forms of discrimination,
-providing support to people entering the labour market,
-investing in children’s education.
Achievements over the past few years:
-A social activities programme for the elderly (2014-2020) has been established and implemented: Poland has a coherent long-term policy for the elderly.
-A new draft law on social welfare has been drawn up with the aim of changing approaches and improving the provision of assistance.
-The system for providing financial support to families has been adjusted. The levels of benefits have been raised and new allowances have been introduced in response to specific situations (for example families with disabled children/dependents).
- Gender equality on the labour market is supported by the following measures:
- parental leave has been introduced but is not used to a satisfactory extent by fathers: campaigns to promote the sharing of parental leave by the mother and the father have therefore been carried out;
- the establishment of institutions catering for very young children is supported by the 2011 law on child care for children under 3 years of age;
- the programme for the development of “Maluch” (toddlers) child care institutions for children under 3 years of age supports the implementation of the aforementioned law; the programme is already very successful, given that 9,000 places have been created for children in this age group.
Access to high-quality child-care services and pre-school education are priority investments. They are considered to be an important means of ensuring that children do not necessarily experience the same poverty and social exclusion as their parents.
With a view to ensuring widespread high-quality teaching and keeping school drop-outs low, all children aged 5 are now obliged to attend a year of pre-primary school preparation. As from 1 September 2015 every child aged 4, and as from 1 September 2017 every child aged 3, will be guaranteed a place in a day-care centre.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The Russian Federation devotes close attention to the issue of social cohesion. Its current importance in our country is explained by a great many factors, including our immense territory, the differences in levels of economic and social development between the different regions, the great diversity of Russian society in ethnic, cultural and religious terms, as well as social problems inherited from the recent past. These include the problem of the poverty suffered by a large portion of the population, an excessive gulf in incomes between the 10% of people who are least well-off and the 10% of people who are most well-off and a demographic situation that is improving but remains unfavourable. A further factor is the high number of immigrant workers which varying estimates put at somewhere between 12 and 15 million people (Russia ranks second in the world on this count, behind the United States).
In this context, participating in the implementation of the Strategy for Social Cohesion and the Council of Europe Action Plan is a priority task for us. I would like to point out that the New Strategy and Action Plan were devised as a result of the decision taken at the 1st Council of Europe Conference of Ministers responsible for Social Cohesion held in Moscow in 2009.
At the initiative of the Russian Federation and with the help of the Council of Europe, a project entitled "Implementation of the Council of Europe Action Plan to develop social cohesion" has been devised and implemented at regional level. It was the Ulyanovsk region which was chosen as pilot region. There, we organised a SPIRAL seminar (SPIRAL standing for social progress indicators and responsibility for all) aimed at disseminating methodology for propagating welfare for all, drawn up under the SPIRAL protocol. That resulted in the preparation of a roadmap for developing social cohesion, which became a model for the other regions. At present, a number of Russian Federation regions are considering implementing this project on their territory, namely the regions of Moscow, Vladimir and North Ossetia. This regional experience will then be generalised in order to foster social cohesion at federal level in the form of a combined, systemic work effort.
One of the main thrusts of promoting social cohesion is the fight against poverty. Between 2000 and 2012, the proportion of people defined as poor in Russia, in other words those with incomes below the minimum subsistence level of 7 500 roubles, fell from 34% to 12%. Great efforts have been made in recent years to increase the income levels of a number of professional categories, such as teachers and doctors who now earn the average salary in their respective regions. We are improving the system of social protection for vulnerable groups of the population, particularly persons with disabilities. The Russian Federation ratified the United Nations Convention on the rights of persons with disabilities in 2012. In the period leading up to that ratification and afterwards, 10 related laws and around 30 amendments to current legislation were passed. The year 2012 also saw the launch of a federal programme entitled "Accessible environment", geared to providing persons with disabilities unimpeded access to all the facilities and services that are indispensable for leading a normal life. Substantial funds totalling over 180 billion roubles (around 4 billion euros) were allocated for this purpose for a period of five years.
We are gradually increasing benefits for families with children, although the amounts remain modest. What is known as the "maternity lump-sum" paid after the birth or adoption of a second child is also increasing. From 2007 to 2014, this "lump-sum" was nearly doubled, now standing at 430 000 roubles (8 800 euros).
A reform of the unemployment benefits system is now being devised. At present, the amounts are fairly small, which is primarily the result of the very liberal criteria for awarding them. This year, the law on employment will be amended to optimise those criteria and better target these benefits. At the same time, they will be increased.
We are also working hard to improve the employment situation and in particular the structure of the labour market. The current level of unemployment in the country is slightly over 5% but at the same time there are 1.7 million vacant jobs, which is nearly twice the number of jobless registered. For that reason, we are focusing on improving employment in terms of the quality of work, basing our efforts on the modernisation of the vocational training and retraining system. By 2020 we intend to create or modernise 25 million high-performance jobs, not only in the industrial sector but also in the sectors of services, education and health.
There is a special focus on developing the inclusive labour market and removing the obstacles for the categories of the population who are not sufficiently represented on the labour market but would very much like to work. First and foremost these are persons with disabilities. Forging employment opportunities for this group requires the creation of accessible public infrastructure and similar infrastructure in the workplace, vocational training and counselling, social reinsertion and assistance for self-employment. In the Russian Federation there are job quotas for these individuals, and employers who carry out adaptations in the workplace have their outlay reimbursed. The practice of sheltered employment and apprenticeships for workers with disabilities is being promoted, with the aim of creating 300 000 adapted workplaces.
The range of measures aimed at facilitating the return of women with young children to the labour market after three years of maternity leave includes the development of child-care services provided for families. In December 2013, the Russian Parliament passed the Law "Establishing the bases of social service provision for Russian Federation citizens", which enters into force on 1 January 2015. This law considerably improves welfare services for families with children, and its drafters took account of Recommendation of the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers Rec (2011)12 on children’s rights and social services friendly to children and families.
A number of measures have been taken to facilitate youth employment. These include drives to encourage employers to recruit young specialists, to develop training and apprenticeship programmes for young people leaving vocational training colleges and to cut the time of transition from education to employment for young people leaving education establishments.
I would like to emphasise the assistance we have received from the Council of Europe for measures to reinforce social cohesion in the Russian Federation, particularly in connection with the European Social Charter, which was ratified by my country in 2010. Russia has now begun to submit national reports on its implementation of the relevant provisions of the Charter and receive feedback in the form of comments and recommendations, which help it to further improve legislation in the social and labour fields and practical arrangements for social protection. Seminars on the theme of the Charter are organised each year in Russia's regions, with the aim of providing a maximum of information on the content of this second fundamental instrument of the Council of Europe (after the European Convention on Human Rights) and assistance for drawing up relevant regional legislation and taking practical measures to ensure enjoyment of the rights guaranteed by the Charter.
Training seminars based on the Council of Europe Disability Action Plan 2006-2015 are run for the social workers who assist these individuals.
Other legal instruments of the Council of Europe, including relevant recommendations of the Committee of Ministers and the Parliamentary Assembly, greatly help us in our work to strengthen social cohesion. Where instruments are not already translated into Russian by the Council of Europe we try to translate them ourselves. The most recent examples are Committee of Ministers Recommendation Rec (2011)9 on fostering social mobility as a contribution to social cohesion and Committee of Ministers Recommendation Rec (2014)1 on the Council of Europe Charter on shared social responsibilities.
En concluant, j’aimerais profiter de cette occasion et inviter les participants ici présents à venir à la conférence pan-européenne de haut niveau, organisée par le Ministère du Travail et de la Protection sociale de la Fédération de Russie et le Conseil de l’Europe en septembre 2015 à Saint-Pétersbourg. Son but sera de discuter des résultats de l’exécution du Plan d’action du Conseil de l’Europe concernant les personnes handicapées 2006-2015.
To conclude, I would like to take this opportunity and invite participants to come to the pan-European level conference organised by the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection of the Russian Federation and the Council of Europe in September 2015 in Saint Petersburg. Its purpose will be to discuss the results of the implementation of the Council of Europe Action Plan on Disability 2006-2015..
Thank you for your attention!
In our country, macro-level institutional arrangements have been made in ensuring social cohesion since 2010. The institutions, operating in the field of social cohesion under different Ministries are combined under the Ministry of Family and Social Policy, which was founded in 2011. In this way, stronger cooperation and coordination between the relevant institutions is achieved in the social cohesion area and consistency and efficiency of the policies carried in this area has increased.
In our country, important legal regulations which aimed to remedy inequalities for disadvantaged groups were made in this period at national level.
1. The second Council of Europe Conference of Ministers responsible for Social Cohesion was held in Istanbul on 11-12 October 2012. This conference under the title of "Building a Secure Future for everybody" addressed important issues such as "the protection of vulnerable groups in times of crisis" and " the realization of social sustainability through intergenerational solidarity" which were discussed in detail .
In addition to the importance of the concept of social cohesion and the Council of Europe instruments; the necessity of the implementation of Council of Europe’s new Social Cohesion Strategy and Action Plan has once again highlighted in this conference. The Conference has increased Turkish public interest in this strategy. Moreover, public institutions and civil society organizations have been united to work together through raising awareness.
A total of 135 delegates from 41 countries attended the Conference. Twenty-five of these countries participated at the level of Minister, Undersecretary and Deputy Undersecretary, which reveals the importance given to such a universal issue and the desire to work together.
2. "National Employment Strategy (2014-2023)" was also prepared this year.
Two of the four components of the document referred to - 1) Increasing Employment of Groups Requiring Special Policy, 2) Strengthening the relationship between Social Protection and Employment - include policies on social cohesion.
3. Family members who can work and benefit from social protection are registered for unemployment insurance. In this way, they benefit from the advantages of vocational training and job placement provided by the insurance.
4- In the "Roma problems and solutions” meeting held in our country in July 18, 2012, it was agreed that respective ministries would work on the initiation of studies for the preparation of a strategy document on Roma-related issues related to their field.
In this context, it was decided that strategy documents would be prepared by the Ministry of Education in the field of education, the Ministry of Environment and Urban Planning in housing, the Ministry of Health in health, the Ministry of Family and Social Policy in social activities and social policy and the Ministry of Labor and Social Security in employment.
In this regard, a Roma Employment Strategy and Action Plan has been prepared by the Ministry of Labor and Social Security. The Ministry of Family and Social Policies was designated as the coordinating institution and studies are underway to finalize the four-legged strategy into a single document.
In the international arena, some crucial legal regulations in this area have been pioneered by Turkey especially under the Istanbul Convention signed in 2011.
The Istanbul Convention, the preparation of which was hosted by Turkey, bears the distinction of being the first enforceable contract on the international law on violence against women and domestic violence. Again, Turkey was the first country to ratify the Istanbul Convention, which was signed on May 11, 2011 in the parliament in Istanbul.
The purpose of the contract is to: protect women from all forms of violence; prevent, prosecute and eliminate violence against women and domestic violence; promote international co-operation, in order to eliminate violence against women and domestic violence.
Turkey was also the host country to the second Council of Europe Conference of Ministers responsible for Social Cohesion in October 2012.
With your permission I would like to highlight that Turkey will continue to incorporate, regulatory and practical activities in this field to ensure reinvesting in social rights and a cohesive society, strengthening representation, expanding social dialogue and building a secure future for all social groups in the country.
PLENARY SESSION 3 - Diversity in European societies - presentation of the progress review on the Council of Europe contribution to social cohesion in Europe
Mme Carlien Scheele, Chair, CDDECS (European Committee for Social Cohesion Human Dignity and Equality, Council of Europe)
Ladies and Gentlemen, dear participants,
The topic of this session is “Diversity in European societies”. I will ask several related questions and try to present ideas for the answers.
What is diversity, what does it mean in practice and what are its effects in our societies?
Diversity in the society means that people are equal, they are accepted, recognised and valued as they are, entities made of their backgrounds, skills, experiences, knowledge and needs. It further means that the differences are used to create inclusive and non-discriminating environments for everyone to feel at home in. In short, differences are accepted and used to the advantage of all.
European societies are becoming increasingly diverse. People move around more than before, from a familiar region to another, from one country to one far away across the continent. They bring along their backgrounds, which they mix with the things of their new home area. No country can claim consisting of one single cultural heritage alone. We all see influences from different languages, customs and religions around us. Some feel more familiar to us than others. But how to deal with those that do not “fit”, that are strange and new to us? How does one understand and ensure, as a person, as a community or as a nation how the society can embrace it all? Due to the new technologies and media everything is available to everyone around the world in a short moment after its publication. Information, images, opinions and violations of rights have no borders and they a brought to us, whether we want it or not, day and night, forcing us to take a stand, to have an opinion, to understand, to feel scared or horrified. How can we accept the new, unknown and unfamiliar?
Enter human rights. The inalienable fundamental rights to which every person is inherently entitled to by being a human, regardless of the nationality, language, religion, ethnic origin or any other status.The rights that are universal and applicable equally to everyone everywhere at all times. The rights that are formulated in human rights conventions that states have adhered to and bound by. The rights the implementation of which the various organizations such as Council of Europe monitor.
Article one of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights formulates: “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights”. This of course, as we all know, is not the case in reality.
People are discriminated against, they are bullied, violated and even killed for being different or just for looking different. Or, just for being a woman. People are refused employment, housing or family relationship of their choice just because they have a foreign name or look, they belong to a particular minority or have a different take on life than the majority around them. Their freedom of expression or beliefs is limited and they are persecuted over who they are or what they believe in. They are told to go away, to a place where they belong. They are expected not to be different, not to be visible, if they stay.
How to make societies inclusive, cohesive, fair and equal? Societies, in which everybody is allowed to actively participate, where everybody can feel at home , be productive and respected members of a society and be true to themselves?
This is where the work of an organisation like Council of Europe comes into picture. An organisation that is founded on the principles of human rights, democracy and the rule of law; an organisation that sets commonly accepted standards through its intergovernmental work in the form of legal standards, strategies, policies, actions plans and programs and monitors their implementation in order to help societies grow more equal.
As the Council of Europe Commissioner of Human Rights, and many other prominent persons have noted, there are three equally important concepts that are essential for cohesive societies.
The first and the most important one is equality combined with non-discrimination, something that everyone can implement in their daily lives in all spheres of life. It is not enough to state on this on paper, it is absolutely essential that effective measures are taken to combat discrimination, stereotypes and racist attitudes. We need to live together as equals.
The second concept is participation and representation, a democratic society that enables everyone to participate and be represented, not only on paper but also in practice. How can a group or an individual be assisted in his or her needs, if those needs are not known to the ones able to help? They need to be heard and their rights need to be promoted, respected and valued. Many problems relating to diversity are problems of social justice and non-realisation of social and economic rights for some sectors of the population. People fall between the cracks of the society and without participation and representation they are forgotten, they are alienated and singled out and eventually they start to revolt.
The third concept requiring continuous effort on the part of everyone, be it a member of the minority or majority, is intercultural contact, cooperation and competences. If you never meet and talk with persons different from you, how will you understand them? If you do not understand why the others do what they do and where they come from culturally, historically, mentally, how will you understand? This understanding can only be reached through exposure to the other habits, cultures, history, religions and languages of the groups one does not identify oneself with. This can be aided by common standards, such as human rights conventions, that are set through international organisations, such as the Council of Europe and the United Nations, to mention only those two. Also the regular intergovernmental exchange of good practises can help in improving the societies.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The new Council of Europe Committee for Social Cohesion, Human Dignity and Equality (CDDECS) was founded, to put it simply, to increase everyone’s sense of belonging, to improve the format for inclusive society and to promote equality – for all. It coordinates the intergovernmental work of the Council of Europe promoting solidarity and protection of human dignity, equality and equal opportunities for all, and the prevention and combatting of violence and discrimination on any ground. Through its work it aims to improve everyone’s full enjoyment of and access to human rights, including social and economic rights, and to reduce the vulnerabilities of sustainable democratic societies.
The committee is new, it has only met once so far, therefore its achievements cannot be listed yet. The committee has three subordinate structures that work to improve gender equality, rights of persons with disabilities and one that is tasked to prepare the Council of Europe´s Strategy for the Rights of the Child, . These structures are older than the committee with established results already. The good work will continue and CDDECS will work on promoting those results. The increased focused attention to the discrimination and stereotypes and their effects to the society is well needed and can have a huge impact on the inclusiveness of the society. This Committee will first and foremost provide a forum for exchanging experience and good practice, so that the excellent legal building blocks we have in forms of conventions and efficiently implemented and that every member of our societies benefits embedded in them.
What needs to be done to make diverse European societies successfully inclusive? What can we do as heads of states, politicians, government representatives, members of intergovernmental working groups, civil servants in international organisations, civil society activists, citizens in general, media representatives and any individual in any given society? What is the recipe for a successful equal and inclusive society?
One part of political proactive leadership with strong moral values based on human rights,
One part of old fashioned courage to speak up and to act against discrimination and inequalities,
One part of human rights education, at all levels of the society,
Spice it up with real opportunities to participate for everyone, assisted by positive measures, when necessary
Mix it with heaps of intercultural contact and cooperation for everyone,
Stir it with trust and respect, sufficient funding and redress mechanisms
Throw it to the society via free and informed media that strives for equal treatment and non-discrimination in its reporting and let it boil for as long as necessary.
Take it out and serve in equal portions to all members of the society.
This is what is needed. And this is what we aim to achieve in the work of the Council of Europe.