Flagship Conference 2021

About the conference

Conference programme


Social Platform acknowledges the financial support of the European Commission’s ‘Europe for Citizens’ programme, managed by the Education, Audiovisial and Culture Executive Agency (EACEA).

Our 2021 Flagship Conference will take place in collaboration with the Portuguese Ministry of Labour, Solidarity and Social Security in the framework of the Portuguese Presidency of the Council of the European Union – ahead of the EU Social Summit taking place on 7 May in Porto (Portugal). Our Conference is an official side event of the Portuguese Presidency.

The Flagship Conference will serve as an opportunity to develop key recommendations to Heads of State and Government and EU decision-makers present at the Social Summit.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had and will continue to have a devastating impact on all areas of peoples’ lives, which will take years to overcome. Moreover, people in the most vulnerable situations have suffered disproportionately as a result of COVID-19 and the measures taken to contain the pandemic. The pandemic has truly exposed the fragility of our socio-economic governance systems and how they must be more resilient to protect the most vulnerable in our societies. It has exacerbated the inequalities and disparities that people across Europe are experiencing in many areas of life, such as education, training and employment; social protection; access to services including health care, long-term care and social services. Our Flagship Conference will focus on the different ways that the European Union should lead its recovery process and reinforce the social dimension that must be at the heart of any solution to build a socially just and inclusive society for all, which is resilient to future crises.

Aim: Our Flagship Conference is the annual forum of civil society organisations advocating for social justice and participatory democracy, together with representatives of EU institutions, EU Member States and other stakeholders. It aims at:

  • identifying the challenges of the current EU’s socio-economic governance models, advocating for better coordination between economic and social policies, and for structured and meaningful civil dialogue;
  • developing alternative models and solutions, which are more democratic, people-centred and leave no-one behind;
  • building synergies and developing strategies between governmental and non-governmental actors to achieve a European Union based on social justice and participatory democracy.

Target audiences: Our Flagship Conference aims to reach out to European and national decision-makers, Social Platform members and their national networks, social partners, academics and other interested stakeholders.

Theme/focus: The European Pillar of Social Rights (Social Pillar) was launched by the European Commission in 2017. It delivers new and improves existing social rights across the EU, and serves as the EU’s compass to achieve better working and living conditions for all. In 2021, the European Commission will launch its Action Plan on the implementation of the Social Pillar. Social Platform and its membership have been advocating for the comprehensive and ambitious implementation of the Social Pillar. Our 2021 Flagship Conference will focus on the role of the Action Plan in supporting Europe’s social recovery.

Background: The first Flagship Conference took place in November 2018 in Lisbon (Portugal) -organised in cooperation with the Portuguese Ministry of Labour, Solidarity and Social Security. The second Flagship Conference took place in September 2019 in Helsinki (Finland) – organised in the framework of the Finnish Presidency of the Council of the EU and in cooperation with the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health of Finland. The Flagship Conference took place back-to-back with and provided recommendations to the Finnish EU High Level Presidency’s Conference on the Economy of Wellbeing. In 2020, our Flagship Conference in the framework of the German Presidency of the Council of the EU unfortunately had to be cancelled due to the ongoing effects and restrictions of the COVID-19 pandemic.

More information about the outcomes of our previous Flagship Conferences.

Format: This year’s Flagship Conference will take place virtually and will consist of:

Conference programme:

4 May

09:30 – 10:00 – Opening and introduction

Parallel workshops:

10:00 – 12:00

WS1: Employment: “Roadmap to Quality Employment through a Just Transition and a Fair Recovery, by SOLIDAR & European Anti-Poverty Network (EAPN)

Description: This workshop will reflect upon ways to create and foster sustainable and quality jobs as part of a fair, inclusive, and resilient recovery and a just transition to greener societies. Making concrete links with the European Pillar of Social Rights Action plan and the European Green Deal, we will discuss issues such as fair wages, good working conditions, poverty, social protection, job security and future of work. Thanks to input by a group of experts composed of representatives of trade unions, EU institutions and social and environmental NGOs, as well as by participants, the workshop will develop policy recommendations on ensuring that quality employment results from the recovery and the green transition in Europe. 

WS2: Skills and lifelong learning: Lifelong and life wide learning for just green transition – by Volonteurope , European Parents Association, SOLIDAR Foundation

Description: Building on the actions of the European Union to date and specifically on the European Education Area and the European Skills Agenda, this workshop will focus on how, together, we build economic and social policies which ensure a just, inclusive, and sustainable European society in which no one is left behind. The workshop speakers and the debate will cover a range of relevant areas including, but not limited to 

  • The need to upskill and build on digital skills; 
  • Lifelong learning for sustainable development and global citizenship, going beyond the immediate needs of the labour market and economic growth; 
  • Validating skills gained from social action and volunteering; 
  • Micro-credentials and non-formal/informal learning; 
  • Taking account of the learners’ perspectives, especially young people with fewer opportunities and furthest from the labour market. 

Keynote speakers will alternate with interactive discussion panels to address education policies, lifelong learning and skills for the future.  

14:00 – 16:00

WS3: Social Protection: Reducing inequalities from the first years of life: the role of Early Childhood Development - by European Public Health Alliance (EPHA) & Eurochild 

Description: The first years of life provide the foundation for life-long health and wellbeing, so investing in early childhood development is crucial for addressing inequalities and tackling poverty and social exclusion.  The First Years First Priority campaign was launched in December 2020 to ensure every child has a fair start in life. A strong social Europe needs to invest in children from their earliest years.  The Action Plan on the European Pillar of Social Rights, together with the proposed EU Child Guarantee, represent an unprecedented opportunity to increase governments’ attention to, and public investment in, quality early childhood development servicesensuring early intervention and catalysing positive change for the most vulnerable and marginalised children.  

The workshop aims to mobilise strategic stakeholders, such as policy and decisionmakers, civil society organisations, professionals and interested parties to highlight the importance of early childhood development for providing equitable solutions to health and social inequalities and advance ‘social Europe’. It seeks to provide clear policy messages and recommendations on what is needed to tackle systemic disparities affecting vulnerable children such as Roma and Travellers, children with disabilities, migrant and refugee children, children at risk of entering, or in, alternative care, and those living in extreme poverty.  

WS4: Social Economy: The Road to Social Europe? An Action Plan for and with Europe’s Social Economy, by European Network of Social Integration Enterprises (ENSIE)European confederation of industrial and service cooperatives (CECOP)

Description: The Social Economy Action Plan will be the most important tool of the European Commission to support Europe’s social economy in the years to come. With this workshop, we seek to identify the recommendations of social economy actors in Europe ahead of the upcoming action plan. Given its broad scope, this workshop approaches the action plan from different perspectives: cooperativism and job creation, social inclusion from the work integration social enterprises perspective, circular economy, the role of the social economy in the recovery process and youth involvement, and Roma socio-economic empowerment. This multitude reflects the diversity of Europe’s Social Economy and sheds a light on the many challenges the action plan needs to address in synergies with other EU initiatives such as the European Pillar of Social Rights Action Plan.

5 May

10:30 – 11:00 – Keynote speech by Professor Enrico Giovannini

11:00 – 12:30 – High-level political discussion panel:

  • Nicolas Schmit, European Commissioner for Jobs and Social Rights (tbc)
  • Joost Korte, Director General, Directorate-General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion, European Commission (tbc)
  • Ana Mendes Godinho, Portuguese Minister of Labour, Solidarity and Social Security
  • Janez Cigler Kralj, Slovenian Minister of Labour, Family, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities
  • Olivier Véran, French Minister for Solidarity and Health (tbc)
  • Piotr Sadowski, President of Social Platform
  • Luca Visentini, ETUC General Secretary

Moderator Heather Roy


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