More than a quarter of Europeans are affected by social exclusion. Its causes are wide and varied and include poverty, disability, membership of an ethnic minority, difficulties in cultural integration, and job insecurity.
In line with his programme and mandate, the President of the European Economic and Social Committee, Mr Mario Sepi, has decided that the 2010 Biennial Conference should address the issue of education as a fundamental tool in combating social exclusion of all kinds. This three-day conference in Firenze will bring together Italian and European personalities, as well as many civil society organisations, in order to debate the links between education and social exclusion. The results of the debates will be used concretely to feed the EU institutions' work in responding to the European citizens' expectations in this domain.
The 2010 Biennial Conference will go on for three days. During the second day there will be three workshops which will deal with the three milestones of social inclusion through education:
Workshop 1 - Education as a gateway to social engagement: the foundations of inclusion;
Workshop 2 - Education as a gateway to the labour market: making inclusion real;
Workshop 3 - Education as a gateway to the exercise of rights: active inclusion.
The conference will end with a final statement and three annexes, containing the proposals of each workshop.
"I am very pleased to welcome you to the European Economic and Social Committee's Biennial conference to be held in Florence on 20-22 May.
I hope that it will be a unique event and you will enjoy it as an active participant!
The Biennial conference is one of the Committee's flagship events and is held every two years at the end of each presidency. Given the priorities of my term- of office, and since this is the European Year for combating poverty and social exclusion, I have decided that the event should address the issue of "Education to combat social exclusion".
Any social inclusion process aims to develop more aware and more active citizens. In order to achieve this, the process has to rely on education, in the broadest sense of the term, to enable people to understand society, access the labour market, know their rights and play a part in the life of their community. The conference will thus explore the links between education in all its various forms and facets and social exclusion in the broad sense, and will examine a number of aspects and dimensions of governmental action in the field of education.
Civil society is very active on these issues and we are convinced that this event can give organisations working in this field the opportunity to meet one another and to develop concrete proposals. The conference also involves high- level representatives from Italian and European institutions: we want to address these institutions by bringing, through a real dialogue, the concrete suggestions of civil society to their attentioniduring this intensive three -day event.
In addition, the idea of having three workshops is linked to the main objective of the conference: allowing organisations working on a daily basis with people who suffer some form of social exclusion to express themselves: this is the main innovation of our Biennial.
We also wanted to involve the local public and especially young people: for this reason, we have given organisations the opportunity to show-case their activities and initiatives in the field of education and inclusion, by putting up high- profile stands in the Piazza SS. Annunziata, right at the entrance of the Conference venue.
Music will also be a crucial part of the event: perfomances will include gipsy music and a concert by the Orchestra di Piazza Vittorio, on Friday 21 May: the Orchestra is itself an outstanding example of cultural diversity and intercultural dialogue.
We have conceived our Biennial as a strong political and cultural initiative with the objective of launching a dialogue among the institutional, political and social actors in order to draw up political declarations and concrete proposals which the European Economic and Social Committee will forward to the other EU institutions in Brussels."
Mario Sepi, in the editorial of the May edition of EESCInfo