European Social Inclusion Platform
What is the European Social Inclusion Platform?
Why the need for a new Platform?
What will ESIP do?
How will ESIP achieve its goals?
How is ESIP organised?
What is the European Social Inclusion Platform (ESIP)?
ESIP is a unique not-for- profit organisation which brings together key organisations and actors who are actively involved in addressing the issue of social inclusion at a local, regional, national and/or European level. ESIP is unique in a number of important aspects:
- Its membership is multi-sectoral . It brings together local, regional and national authorities as well as community based organisations;
- Its membership also incorporates researchers and experts working in the field. These are individuals working in the education sector or independent research foundations. As such the platform creates a unique link between research and practice;
- Its focus and priorities reflect the needs of new member states and accession countries. ESIP has emerged in a direct response to enlargement and the needs identified by new member states and accession countries. It was launched in October 2004 at an EU seminar 'Continuity and Change: Social Inclusion in an Enlarged EU', which was attended by delegates from 8 of the 'new' member states and two accession countries, alongside delegates from 7 'old' member states. See
- It is located in Bratislava . This sends an important symbolic signal that post enlargement also means to recognise that the 'centre of gravity' for developing European wide initiatives is also shifting.
As such ESIP is the only multi-sectoral, European wide network working in the field of social inclusion. It is unique in creating the basis for developing both vertical linkages between different sectors and levels as well as horizontal links in terms of integrated approaches that are well recognised as the key approach to tackling Social Exclusion.
Why the need for a new Platform?
Poverty and exclusion levels are only, at best, marginally better than 10 years ago. Indeed, poverty and levels of social exclusion are increasing. Whilst it is difficult to provide precise figures across the EU, it is commonly accepted that between 16-20% of people are experiencing poverty and social exclusion. Furthermore, a growing proportion of this group is/has been long term excluded.
Given the much lower levels of income in the new Member States, and the major structural taking place such as restructuring of the labour market, agricultural restructuring, ageing populations etc. , it is essential to recognise that the new member States face a particular challenge to develop actions which prevent people becoming poor and excluded and thus unable to benefit from or contribute to the increased economic growth that should follow from enlargement.
The Policy Context
It is important to bear in mind that since the mid 1970`s the EU has been increasingly worried by the persistence and new forms of poverty and social exclusion. The EU Council took its first resolution approving a social action programme to combat poverty in January 1974. This was the origin of the first Poverty Programme (Poverty 1,1975-80). This was followed by Poverty 2 (1984-89) and Poverty 3 (1989-94) Programmes. In Poverty 1'Persons beset by poverty' were characterised as 'individuals or families whose resources are so small as to exclude them from the minimum acceptable way of life of the Member State in which they live'.
Poverty 1, in hindsight, laid down some key elements that are still evident in the present and future policy context. These elements included:
- A multi-dimensional and cumulative perspective in relation to poverty and exclusion.
- New forms of poverty and exclusion arising from the way that the labour market was, or was not working. The new forms of poverty included 'low pay, unemployment, precarious employment' and thus a focus on exclusion from the labour market and the conditions of employability;
- Identification of certain specific groups as bearing the brunt of increasing poverty and exclusion .e.g. young people; unskilled workers; immigrants; people with disabilities; single parents
- Institutional approaches to tackling these issues were in some cases part of the problem, rather than a solution
Following the recognition under Articles 136 and 137 EC of the Amsterdam Treaty of combating social exclusion as one of the fields where the Community had an active role in supporting and complementing the activities of Member States, the Lisbon European Council in March 2000 agreed on the need to take steps to 'make a decisive impact on the eradication of poverty by 2010'.
It also agreed that Member States should co-ordinate their policies for combating poverty and social exclusion on the basis of an open method of co-ordination combining common objectives, National Action Plans and a Community Action programme. In December 2000 the Nice European Council decided to launch the new method in the field of combating poverty and social exclusion and defined a common set of four objectives:
- To facilitate participation in employment and access to resources, rights, goods, and services for all;
- To prevent the risks of exclusion;
- To help the most vulnerable;
- To mobilise all relevant bodies.
National Action Plans for social inclusion (NAPs/inclusion for short) play a key role in the EU process, to the extent that they translate the common objectives into national policies, while taking into account their individual national circumstances and the particular nature of national social protection systems and social policies.
All Member States submitted their first NAPs/inclusion in June 2001. Their preparation provided an opportunity for wide information and consultation of the most concerned stakeholders and to review the bases of the national strategies to fight poverty and social exclusion. It also represented an opportunity to develop a more strategic and integrated approach. Moreover, the information provided in the NAPs/inclusion provided a good basis for the exchange of learning and best practice across the Union .
However, it needs to be noted that this potential has not been very effectively realised in practice. Most significantly, that despite the importance of the issue of social exclusion in terms of urban policy, the role of cities and regions in the development of National Action plans for Social Inclusion (NAPs) has been ad hoc and somewhat marginal.
Reflecting a wide consensus about the usefulness of the new process and the robustness of the common objectives adopted in Nice, the Council decided in December 2002 to ask Member States to prepare a second round of NAPs/inclusion for July 2003 on the basis of common objectives where just a few substantive changes were introduced:
- (a) An invitation to Member States to include national targets in their NAPs/inclusion (in fulfilment of the conclusions of the Barcelona European Council);
- (b) An emphasis placed on gender differentiation in the analysis of social exclusion and in assessing policy impact;
- (c) The highlighting of the special difficulties facing immigrants as regards their social inclusion.
New member States have been involved in this process, well before the date of formal enlargement. DG EMPL and each of the Acceding Countries agreed in 2002 to initiate a bilateral co-operation process centred on the drafting of Joint Inclusion Memoranda (JIMs) with the aim of identifying the key social challenges in each country, setting out the major policies in place or envisaged and highlighting a few key policy issues for further review. The JIMs were signed jointly by the Commission and each of the 10 acceding countries on 18 December 2003 . This process was designed to prepare the accession countries for their full participation in the social inclusion process, which started in mid-2004 with the submission of their first NAPs/inclusion for the period 2004-2006.
It is clear from the preceding analysis that an effective strategy to significantly reduce poverty and social exclusion needs a multi-dimensional and long-term approach. Indeed, the overarching policy challenge that emerges is the need for Member States to ensure that there is a strong integration of economic, employment, lifelong learning, cultural, housing, health (including safety) and social policies and that a concern with preventing and eradicating poverty and social exclusion is mainstreamed across all these policy areas. Such a functional mix is essential if an integrated and co-ordinated approach to eradicating poverty and social exclusion is to be achieved.
What will ESIP do?
The overall objective of the Platform is to further, in a non-profit-making capacity, local, regional, national and European policies and initiatives which address the issue of social exclusion. To this end, it has the following specific objectives:
- To promote the transnational exchange of learning, information and experience in relation to the development and implementing of local, regional and national plans for social inclusion.
- To set up transnational training and exchange activities for key actors at local, regional and national levels
- To organise meetings and seminars, and to publish articles and research.
- To set up access to online resources for key actors.
More specifically, to achieve these objectives ESIP will undertake the following specific actions:
- Develop an annual programme of peer review and development seminars which will bring together key actors from new member states as well as participants from the former EU15 in order to facilitate the transfer of experience and improve the capacity of participants.
- Create an online knowledge and practise exchange which will have the following components:
- Thematic based case studies
- Links to relevant websites and publications
- Network of key actors, incorporating short profiles
- Learning forums
- Create a network of consultants, experts who will operate as a social enterprise offering affordable advise and support to Platform members.
- Liase with the European Commission and other EU networks and institutions in order to reflect the needs of Platform members.
- Develop EU projects which reflect the priorities and interests of the Platform.
How will ESIP achieve its goals?
ESIP has already been formally established as a legal entity by three founding organisations. These are: Quartiers en Crise - European Regeneration Areas network; Bratislava Self Governing Region and the City of Pezinok . The founding organisations reflect the goal of the platform in making connections between the European, Regional and local levels.
ESIP aims to secure funding from the EC as one of the core networks working in the field of Social Inclusion. There is a separate budget line for such networks and ESIP will submit an application when the call is announced in April 2005. Discussions have already been held with the EC, and these have been positive. If the submission is successful, ESIP will have core funding to deliver the above goals for two years. During this time the Platform will also be seeking to develop with Members new projects and thus establish ongoing financial support.
How is ESIP organised?
There are two levels of membership:
Full members are constituted organisations working at local, regional, national and European levels. Full members have to be located in one of the EU member States or accession countries. Full Members are represented on the Management Committee of the Platform.
Associate members are individuals, researchers, policy officers, and experts etc, who are involved in addressing social exclusion at local, regional or national levels. Associate members can be located both within and outside the EU. Associate members are not represented on the Management Committee
Membership is open to all organisations and individuals meeting the above requirements.
Management Structure of the Platform
The Platform has a management committee which consists of:
- Founding members
- One representation from each member state or accession country represented in the Platform membership
The management committee will meet at least two times per year.
The establishment and maintenance of the management committee is the responsibility of the Founding members.
Founding members will nominate a named delegate and substitute to represent their respective organisations on the Management Committee.
Full Members will at member state level nominate or elect a representative on to the Management Committee.
The Management will be reconstituted every two years. Appointments, elections to the MC will therefore be for a two year period.
The Management Committee will be responsible for agreeing the strategic plan for the Platform and agree and review the annual action plan.
The Management Committee shall from its membership appoint/elect a President; Vice-President; Secretary and Treasurer.
The work of the Management Committee is prepared b y a secretariat provided by the Founding members.