The Draft Constitutional Treaty for the European Union recognizes the principal of participatory democracy and states in Article 46 that:
“1) The Union Institutions shall, by appropriate means, give citizens and representative associations the opportunity to make known and publicly exchange their views in all areas of Union action.”
2) “The Union Institutions shall maintain an open, transparent and regular dialogue with representative associations and civil society.”
In parallel, the European Union is actively pursuing the agreed “Lisbon Strategy”, which commits Member States to a range of policies centred around economic, social and environmental renewal. These aim to ensure that, by 2010, the European Union is;
“The most competitive and dynamic, knowledge-based economy in the world, capable of sustainable economic growth with more and better jobs and greater social cohesion.”
It is thanks to the work of numerous non-governmental organizations that social policies do in fact feature within the agreed “Lisbon Strategy”, and Member States’ efforts so far have focused in particular on streamlining in the field of social protection, pensions and the ageing society, social exclusion, life-long learning, the reconciling of family and professional life and the integration of migrants to the host society.
Many of these issues are also being tackled at the international level, for example the Peking and Copenhagen World Summits of the 1990’s, which looked at women and social development respectively and the Second World Assembly on Ageing 2002.
These Summits recognized that:
“Much unremunerated productive work, such as caring for children and older persons, producing and preparing food for the family, protecting the environment and providing voluntary assistance to vulnerable and disadvantaged individuals and groups, is of great social importance. World wide, most of this work is done by women who often face the double burden of remunerated and unremunerated work. Efforts are needed to acknowledge the social and economic importance and value of unremunerated work, to facilitate labour-force participation in combination with such work through flexible working arrangements, encouraging voluntary social activities as well as broadening the very conception of productive work, and to accord social recognition for such work, including by developing methods for reflecting its value in quantitative terms for possible reflection in accounts that may be produced separately from, but consistent with, core national accounts.”
(Chapter 3, Article 46, Copenhagen Declaration 1995);
“We recognize the important role played by families, volunteers, communities, older persons organizations and other community-based organizations in providing support and informal care to older persons in addition to services provided by Governments.”
(Article 15, Report of the Second Word Assembly on Ageing, 2002)
Position of the European Volunteer Centre (CEV), Fédération Européenne des Femmes Actives au Foyer (FEFAF) and the Délégation Européenne du Mouvement Mondial des Mères (MMM)
CEV, FEFAF and MMM strongly believe that such active non-remunerated work, whether within the home, or on a voluntary formal or informal basis (for example within non-profit associations or neighbourly helping-out) form integral parts of the European Social Model. Non-remunerated workers are vital to create a cohesive and stable society. For example, voluntary action creates bonds of trust and encourages cooperation, i.e. it creates social capital; it promotes participation in public affairs which is vital for the preservation of democratic principles. Voluntary action also promotes the inclusion of the socially included (for example migrant communities) and has been shown to promote good health and emotional well-being. Meanwhile, those active within the home are fundamental sources of care, support and education to children, the elderly, the sick and the disabled. Without their invaluable contribution, the Community budget would be seriously compromised. Therefore, are non-profit organizations and families not crucial partners of the European Social Model?
However, this fundamental contribution to our societies and economies remains by and large invisible.
Non-Profit Organisations and Families: Fundamental Partners of the European Social Model
Do we really know who carries out this non-remunerated work?
Do we really know what is the added value of this non-remunerated work to our societies and economies?
Do we really know what is the added value of this non-remunerated work to the individuals themselves, as well as the beneficiaries?
Do we really know what are the needs of non-profit organizations, families and individuals in this regard across the whole of the European Union?
Are there agreed indicators or is there data which may shed light on the above questions? If not, how can appropriate supportive policies be properly developed?
In light of Article 46 of the Draft EU Constitutional Treaty which gives all citizens, representative associations and civil society the right to make their voice heard, we would like to draw attention to the fact that volunteers and those active within the home are also citizens, whose invaluable non-remunerated work deserves fundamental recognition and support by the EU Institutions and by Member States. These citizens needs to, for example life-long learning education and opportunities, social protection and psychological assistance need also to be recognized. However, how can this be achieved across the Union if there are no agreed indicators or data that shed light on the Community’s millions of non-remunerated workers.
CEV, FEFAF and MMM urge the European Union and Member States to take on board these arguments, to seriously recognize and value the contribution of millions of volunteers and citizens active within the home (predominantly women) and take appropriate steps to address the above-mentioned deficiencies. This will be an important step towards creating favourable policies for these millions of citizens and to creating the “Social Europe” its citizens want to see.
CEV, FEFAF, MMM
Brussels, March 2004
CEV Secretariat: Rue de la Science 10, 1000 Brussels, Tel: 32 2 511 75 01, Fax: 32 2 514 59 89, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: www.cev.be
FEFAF a.i.s.b.l., 76 av. Père Damien, B-1150 Bruxelles, Belgique * Tel/fax: 32-(0) 2.771.23.34 * E-mail: email@example.com Website: www.fefaf.org
MMM: Rue Bâtonnier Braffort 39/3, Tél/Fax: +00 32 2 733 17 77, B-1040 Bruxelles E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: www.mouvement-mondial-des-meres.org