Building Europe through Human Rights

On the occasion of the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, on October 17 2012, people living in extreme poverty had pride of place at the Council of Europe. From the United Kingdom, to France, to Siberia in the Russian Federation, people in poverty, decision-makers and members of the civil society took part in a conference entitled “Building Europe through Human Rights: Acting together against extreme poverty”.

For effective human rights in Europe, “we need to be acknowledged, decision-makers should ask those of us with the most difficult lives” – a person struggling against extreme poverty, from Belgium.

We need to bridge the gap between decision-makers and people in poverty. They have a lot to contribute.” – Jean-Marie Heydt, President of the Conference of INGOs at the Council of Europe.

Stop making decision for us: listen to us”, “We have ideas, ask us”, participants struggling against extreme poverty, from France.

One of the aims of today’s conference is to work towards better understanding of the conditions for real and effective participation of people living in poverty and social exclusion. Without their participation, extreme poverty cannot be eradicated and the human rights and dignity of each person will not be respected. One of the aspect of this participation is to give effectiveness of stipulations such as article 30 of the European Social Charter, which recognises the right to protection against poverty and social exclusion. This right is, however, far from effective. Indeed, participants stressed the need to build long-lasting, sustainable partnerships between decision-makers and people in poverty, in order for social policies to be effective.

Partnerships must also be set-up between people in poverty and professionals. In England, for example, people with an experience of extreme poverty, together with facilitators, organise training courses for social workers, at Royal Holloway University of London. The training aims to give social workers a better understanding and insight into the lives of families living in poverty.

In celebration of the courage and resourcefulness of people in poverty all over the world, a commemoration took place outside the Council of Europe. The people present observed a minute of silence in front of a replica of the Commemorative Stone in honour of victims of extreme poverty.

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Round Table III
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Commemoration – 2