Learn how to tackle social rights violations at our training session!

On 22 September we will invite our members to participate in our yearly awareness-raising and training session for non-governmental organisations (NGOs) on how to make the best use of the Collective Complaints Procedure under the European Social Charter – you can find the draft agenda and registration details here. This year we have the pleasure of organising the event with the Conference of INGOs (international NGOs) of the Council of Europe with the support of the Academic Network on the European Social Charter and Social Rights (ANESC), in partnership with the European Economic and Social Committee.

The Collective Complaints Procedure is a proven and successful advocacy tool. In light of the detrimental consequences of the financial and economic crisis on people’s social rights in Europe, and while awaiting accession to the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, it is even more important to use this procedure as a tool to fight violations of social rights. Unlike the European Court of Human Rights, a case does not require all national remedies to be exhausted and decisions can lead to immediate changes at national level, in legislation or interpretation. During last year’s training session our members ATD Quart Monde, IPPF-EN and FEANTSA presented their positive experiences of launching complaint using this tool.

The aims of our training session on 22 September are:

  1. To make sure that we as NGOs improve our knowledge about complaints procedures and the normative system of the European Social Charter
  2. To exchange views and our experiences
  3. To receive technical advice on how to better use the procedure.

We hope that it will lead to NGOs that already have the status to lodge complaints putting more cases forward. We also hope it will encourage other NGOs to apply for the same status. Read more about this on the Council of Europe’s website.

A recent successful case in 2015 is the “Conference of European Churches (CEC) versus the Netherlands“, where the European Committee of Social Rights concluded that the Netherlands must provide adequate shelter to undocumented migrants, regardless of whether they have been requested to leave the country. See our related campaign and consultation against the “Criminalisation of Solidarity“. Another interesting case from 2014 was lodged by our member IPPF-EN against Italy; the decision by the Committee obliged the state to ensure that women receive reproductive healthcare services, including abortion services (read more about it here).

Building on a conference that took place in February on the protection of social rights in Europe, academic experts have put together a “Brussels document” discussing how best to maximise potential synergies between the Council of Europe and the European Union (EU). They criticise the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights for not mentioning the right to work, the right to housing or protection from poverty and social exclusion. Although the provisions of the Charter of Fundamental Rights are directly inspired by the Social Charter, they are not read in accordance with their interpretation by the European Committee of Social Rights. As of today, 14 EU member states have accepted the complaints procedures (Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Greece, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovenia, and Sweden). As a part of our position towards an EU Internal Strategy to Promote Human Rights, we encourage more member states to adhere to the procedures. The “Brussels document” also calls on the European Commission to recommend more EU member states to ratify the Revised European Social Charter, which would favour the uniformity of application for EU law. The experts also propose the Social Charter to be referred to in the Commission’s impact assessments as a way to apply the “horizontal social clause” of article 9 TFEU.

Read more about our training session on 22 September, including how you can register!