The social cohesion objective as a starting point
1949: First founding Summit of the Council of Europe, with the objective of creating in Europe a political sphere for peace and affirmation of the three core values: Democracy, Human Rights and Rule of Law. 1997: Second Summit of the Council of Europe: the objective of Social Cohesion is highlighted as a driving force for the three core values. Despite the considerable progress made with regard to civil and political rights (of women, migrants, ethnic minorities, etc.) and social rights, owed in large part to the establishment of the European Court of Human Rights (1956), the European Social Charter (1961) and a number of other political instruments, the crisis years of the 1970s and 1980s resulted in the emergence of situations of unemployment, social exclusion and poverty. The statement of the social cohesion objective expresses the need to involve all of society in order to ensure human rights and a dignified life for all.
Council or Europe Social Cohesion Strategy
In 2000 the Council of Europe adopted a Social Cohesion Strategy; it was revised in 2004 and 2010. It defines social cohesion as society’s capacity to ensure the well-being of all its members, minimising disparities and avoiding polarisation, to manage differences and divisions, and to acquire the means of ensuring the social welfare of all its members. It is based on four pillars:
- Reinvesting in social rights and a cohesive society;
- Building a Europe of shared social responsibilities – A “European Charter of Shared Social Responsibilities” was debated with civil society in Brussels on 28 February 2011 (See programme) and is currently in the finalisation stage;
- Strengthening representation and democratic decision-making and expanding social dialogue and civic engagement;
- Building a secure future for all.
The social cohesion strategy highlights two key ideas: 1 – The objective of well-being for all implies a democratic decision-making process and a move for social dialogue and civic engagement (third pillar) for the development and implementation of a vision for the future where each person may find his/her place and may flourish (fourth pillar). 2 - The capacity of society to ensure well-being for all, as a social cohesion objective, implies a process of shared social responsibility or co-responsibility involving all stakeholders, public and private (second pillar). Such an approach must be created at the local level, with inhabitants and other stakeholders and with national and regional policies that offer a suitable framework to encourage such processes and ensure social rights for all (first pillar).
Social Cohesion Strategy application
The implementation of the strategy requires:
- The development of indicators to define and measure the well-being of all, in particular in co-operation with citizens themselves;
- The sharing of responsibilities to ensure progress towards the well-being of all, including future generations;
- Monitoring and evaluation of the societal progress achieved.
From 2002 to 2005 a first Methodological Guide for Designing Concerted Social Cohesion Indicators was developed with the different services of the Council of Europe and various governments, laying down the conceptual and methodological groundwork of Social Cohesion.
Following its publication in 2005, a collaboration with the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities took place in the pilot town of Mulhouse and an increasing number of other towns. Several aplication have been have been carried out at local level in specific geographical areas (communities, neighbourhoods, municipalities, regions) and institutions (businesses, schools, etc). They have led to the development of an initial methodological framework and tools for facilitating its application and also to the idea of territories of co-responsibility, ie specific areas where consultation processes are established for the purpose of developing a shared responsibility approach for the well-being of all. These process generated the conception and implementation of a large number of pilot actions of coresponsility and strategies and action plans. In October 2010 a new Methodological Guidelines "Involving citizens and communities in securing societal progress for the well-being of all" was published, drawing the lessons of five years of experimentation and other similar initiatives around the world.
Following the publication of this second guide, the methodological framework, hereon-in referred to as SPIRAL, continued to evolve, improve and to be enriched thanks to the various contributions of municipalities and local actors involved.
Social Cohesion Action Plan
As a result of this process an Action Plan of the Council of Europe for social cohesion has been approved by the Committee of Ministers in July 2010. It proposes to integrate two complementary approaches:
- A bottom-up approach, designed to promote dialogue, build a vision of the future and the sharing of social responsibilities for the well-being of all, first at local level together with citizens, and subsequently at regional, national and European level, so as to review public policies in the light of the views expressed by citizens;
- A top-down approach, based on national and European policies, in particular the legal and policy instruments drawn up by the Council of Europe (European Social Charter, European Code of Social Security, Committee of Ministers recommendations, resolutions of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, etc.), to be adapted and used at different territorial levels.
Implementation of the Action Plan
In order to implement the bottom-up approach, the Council of Europe advocates the devising of methods to involve citizens in securing progress towards the well-being of all. The SPIRAL methodology works towards this objective and the SPIRAL website seeks to facilitate exchanges to this end (see in particular the sections on Methodology, Tools, Examples, Products, Methodology Exchange Groups, Networks).
Implementation of the top-down approach involves:
- Providing all interested stakeholders with information on the legal and political instruments drawn up by the Council of Europe, set out in line with the different dimensions of well-being expressed by citizens. You can download the corresponding document and let us know of potential or actual concrete applications, and your questions, in order to promote a dialogue to strengthen the relevance and use of these instruments.
- Reflection at European level with concrete proposals relating to certain key questions for a shared responsibility approach to securing the well-being of all, such as job creation through social cohesion or the human rights of persons experiencing poverty.