"Poverty and Inequality in Societies of Human Rights: the paradox of democracies"

21 February 2013, Strasbourg – The Secretary General of the Council of Europe Mr Thorbjørn Jagland and the EU Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion Mr László Andor will open a major international conference to give a fresh, modern and participatory vision to the fight against poverty and inequality in today’s Europe. 

The Conference ‘Poverty and Inequality in Societies of Human Rights: the Paradox of Democracies – Proposals for an Inclusive Society’ is organised by the Council of Europe – Social Cohesion Research and Early Warning Division in partnership with the European Commission and is part of a broader project on “Human Rights of People Experiencing Poverty” 

See more on the project: → http://rights-poverty.eu/ 

Over 350 participants, 68 speakers, 6 workshops, more than 100 organizations among local authorities, civil society organizations and NGOs for 55 countries represented. 

The two-day Conference is a unique occasion to discuss solutions to the impoverishment and increasing marginalization affecting our society in a participatory manner; it brings together institutional actors, researchers, activists, associations, and networks, as well as people living in poverty and precariousness and other citizens involved in related issues. From the activists of the Indignados movement, to the dumpster divers who denounce the mis-use of material resources. From the experts of time banking to the activist managing networks of common/public resources such as gardens, medicines, houses. 

See the conference program: → Program in English / Program in French 

See the speaker biographies: → Link 

The Conference will be streamed live on the Council of Europe website and it will be also possible to follow the debate on twitter (#inequality2013 - @SocCohesion_CoE). 

Poverty, precarity and inequality are on the rise in all European countries and have been reinforced by the crisis. These dramatic phenomena not only weaken the Social Cohesion of European societies but they also violate human rights, including social as well as civil and political rights, and question the functioning of democracy. To be effective, the fight against poverty cannot be limited to targeted and conditional measures. It must take into account the relationships and interdependencies existing in society in order to facilitate the sharing of social responsibilities and ensure equal access to material and immaterial resources. This implies to encourage the sharing of resources and common goods, whilst also avoiding waste. 

Universality of Human Rights, Non-Stigmatization, Shared Responsibility, Common Goods, Poverty as a result of Social Interrelations, Equal Access to Material and Immaterial Resources are the key concepts which will be emphasised throughout the Conference. 

Three key aims of the Conference are: 

1. Analyse the current situation and identify problems / obstacles to the fight against poverty and inequalities (limits of legal and democratic mechanisms to ensure the voices of people living in poverty is taken into account, changes in redistribution policies, etc.); 

2. Formulate concrete proposals to progress in the fight against poverty, taking into account the need to include the voice of each person, to better utilize and share resources in order to avoid waste and ensure more equal access to them, in a perspective of well-being for all; 

3. Exchange and share experiences, knowledge and practices to implement innovative actions to fight against poverty and inequalities, based on the concepts of common goods, shared responsibility and avoiding the waste of resources. 


To design the follow-up to the Conference, on Saturday 23rd February, a part of the participants will gather together at the European Youth Centre to further discuss the paths to reduce inequalities and precariousness by fostering shared responsibility at the local level. 

See the program of the Extra-Day: → Link 

The Conference will also be the occasion to launch the publications: 

 The Guide “Living in dignity in the XXIst Century: Poverty and Inequalities, paradoxes in Societies of Rights and Democracy?”; which stems from the same participatory approach that inspired the conference and summarises a two-year discussion on the need for a new perspective on the management of inequalities and rights in Europe. 

See the launch of the publication: → Link 

See the executive summary of the Guide: → http://rights-poverty.eu/guide/ 

 Trends in Social Cohesion, No. 25 – “Redefining and combating poverty, Human rights, democracy and common goods in today’s Europe”. 


Visit the online bookstore: → Link 

For further information, practical issues and registration please visit: 

→ http://rights-poverty.eu/conference/ 

For media contacts and arranging interviews with conference participants please refer to 

Mrs Henriette Girard Henriette.GIRARD@coe.int or Mr David RinaldiDavid.RINALDI@coe.int 

Office: +33 (0) 3 90 21 56 71