Council of Europe
Created on May 5, 1949, the Council of Europe is an intergovernmental organisation. It is composed of 47 member states that have a combined population of approximately 830 million (2021).
With the goal of strengthening democracy and human rights throughout Europe, the Council has four components: Committee of Ministers, Parliamentary Assembly, Congress of Local and Regional Authorities, and the Conference of International Non-Governmental Organisations (INGOs).
ATD Fourth World at the Council of Europe
For decades ATD Fourth World has been actively involved with the Council of Europe, especially through the Conference of INGOs. As an international NGO, ATD Fourth World International gained participatory status at the Council of Europe in 1977.
Since then, we have pushed the Council to involve people experiencing poverty in the development of various studies and guidelines on social cohesion. Through cases brought before the European Court of Human Rights, ATD has helped establish case law recognising extreme poverty as a violation of human rights.
European Social Charter
ATD Fourth World has always been a supporter of the European Social Charter. This important treaty guarantees fundamental social and economic rights for all European citizens. Throughout Europe, ATD’s advocacy has made use of the Charter’s collective complaints procedure, an important mechanism for monitoring implementation of its principles.
ATD sees the European Social Charter as an important tool in the struggle against extreme poverty in Europe and for the respect of human dignity. In particular, Article 30 states that “everyone has the right to be protected against poverty”. Notably, Marija Pejčinović Burić, Secretary General of the Council of Europe, stated that the European Social Charter, along with the European Convention on Human Rights, constitutes “the soul of modern Europe”.
Conference of International Non-Governmental Organizations
ATD Fourth World representatives at the Council of Europe play an active role in the Conference of INGOs. In this context, they were instrumental in getting the Presidents of the Council of Europe’s 4 pillars to sign a declaration titled “Acting together to eradicate extreme poverty in Europe“. In addition, ATD advocates for Council of Europe bodies to fulfil commitments they have made to fight poverty.
Defending the rights of people in poverty
In 1993, Mrs. Catherine Lalumière, then the Council of Europe’s Secretary General, inaugurated in front of the Palace of Europe in Strasbourg, France a replica of the Paris commemorative stone honouring victims of poverty. During the inauguration, attendees heard from a delegation of European young people active in the struggle to end poverty. In 2019, a renovation placed the stone upright, making it more visible.
Each year on October 17, the World Day for Overcoming Poverty, a ceremony takes place near this stone to honour victims of poverty. As a member of the Council’s working group on poverty and human rights, ATD plays a key role in ensuring that people with a lived experience of poverty can speak out on this day.
In addition to the annual ceremony, the working group organises other events to mark World Day for Overcoming Poverty. For example, each year a seminar addresses issues such as respect, or lack of respect, for rights; the European Social Charter; or successful European social programs and their impact on society, especially the most disadvantaged people. ATD Fourth World and other associations ensure that, here too, people experiencing exclusion due to poverty take an active part in the event.
Following the seminar, the working group presents recommendations to the Conference of INGOs and other bodies of the Council of Europe. For example:
- Recommendation on access to social and medical-social services for all: a springboard out of poverty, adopted by the General Assembly in April, 2021
- Recommendation relating to the right to decent housing for all, adopted by the Conference of INGOs in April, 2019
Other ATD Council of Europe activities
In 2019 ATD spoke at the Council of Europe’s yearly Lisbon Forum.
In April 2021, ATD and other organisations (Caritas, ESAN, the European Social Platform, Soroptimist International, etc.) were instrumental in getting the Conference of INGOs to establish the Action for Social Rights Committee. This committee works towards ratification and implementation of the European Social Charter in all Council of Europe countries. It does this by putting in place tools that enable all citizens to be more proactive in defending rights.
Other committees of the Conference of INGOs:
- Environment, climate change, heritage and health
- Health and environmental crisis – governance and solidarity
- Human rights and artificial intelligence
- Interfaith and inter-convictional dialogue
- Rights of migrants
- Rights of the Child