People Experiencing Poverty

In the late 1990s, EAPN along with other social NGOs pressed the European institutions for an anti-poverty policy that really delivers. This intensive lobbying resulted in the implementation of the European Social Inclusion Strategy decided on at the Nice Summit in 2000.

We placed particular emphasis on Objective 4 of that strategy, which calls for all relevant bodies to be mobilised, especially people experiencing poverty. Since then, there has been considerable progress in translating fine words and good intentions into concrete actions.

The first European Meeting of people experiencing poverty was held in 2001 under the Belgian presidency of the EU at the instigation of the Belgian government. Some members of EAPN were involved.

Over time, these meetings have turned into an EU Presidency/European Commission initiative, a development of major political significance. The meetings have gradually risen up the European authorities and Member States’ agendas, and are now seen as a big policy event where the expertise of people experiencing poverty can be leveraged. The meetings now involve nearly 200 people working in 17 languages.

EAPN (Europe) organises and facilitates the meetings, and the EAPN national networks prepare and support the delegations.

The meeting so far have been:

  • 2011: Tenth Meeting, Hungarian Government. The Irish delegation of Michael Mackey, Laura Pierce, Mary Connors and Karen Fitzpatrick focused on the themes of employment, work and jobs. The delegation prepared recommendations and a theatrical presentation of the challenges of those living in poverty. The group presented the constant struggles facing someone experiencing poverty and social exclusion to become independent and gain their dignity.

You can view a video of their theatrical presentation here.

  • 2010: Ninth Meeting, Spanish Government. Firstly the initial findings of a research on the impact of EU Meetings were presented and discussed. Secondly there was an exchange between the delegates and the members of the European Parliament. Thirdly the delegations of people experiencing poverty discussed and presented their 10 years Action Plans for fighting against poverty. They did this by reflecting on the proposals which came from previous meetings. It was hoped that the ideas that emerged from this exercise would be taken up in the final declaration from the 2010 European Year for Combating poverty and social exclusion. The Irish delegation was composed of Mary Connors (Irish Traveller Movement), James McKeon (Fingal Centre for the Unemployed), Joan Courtney (OPEN) and Olga Dubyna (Migrant Rights Centre Ireland). You can access a review of the European meetings of People Experiencing Poverty here.
  • 2009:  Eighth Meeting, Czech Government. The theme of the Meeting was Where we live – What we need and focused on the issues of housing, financial exclusion and access to basic services. The Irish delegation looked at issues related to the health services and the delegates were Mary Connors (Irish Traveller Movement), Karen Fitzpatrick (One Family), Michael Mackey (Galway Simon) and Mary Mason (Older Women’s Network.


  • 2008:  Seventh Meeting, Slovenian Government. The Theme was the ‘4 pillars in the Fight against Poverty’ (Minimum Income, Housing, Social Services and Service of General Interest). The Irish Delegation was Sammy Brill (Muscular Dystrophy Ireland), Michael Mackey (Galway Simon) and Salome Mbugua (AkiDwA). The delegation focused on the issue of housing. On 25 November 2008 EAPN Ireland launched a DVD of the Irish delegation to the 7th European Meeting of People Experiencing Poverty in Brussels in May 2008. This movie ‘A Journey for Change’ is available in two parts on YouTube.
    Make sure to check out the Irish delegation’s presentation


  • 2007: Sixth Meeting, German Government. Theme: Tackling Poverty and Social Exclusion – progress made, future steps. The Irish delegation included Rajat Bhatnagar and Ma. Lourdes Hernan(Migrant Rights Centre Ireland), Egide Dhala (SPIRASI) and Salome Mbugua (AkiDwA)
    Read the presentation of the Irish Delegation at the sixth Meeting.


  • 2006: Fifth Meeting, Austrian Government.
    Theme: How do we cope with everyday life?. See the poster produced by the Irish delegation – ‘Poverty: Seeing the picture and changing it’, and read the Report and the key messages on the meeting from the Austrian Presidency.


  • 2005:  Fourth meeting, Luxemburg Government. “Images and perceptions of poverty”. See Report. The Irish delegation was Breda Dunne and Joan Courtney (OPEN), Sancha Magat and Olga Dubyna (Migrant Rights Centre) with Robin Hanan (workshop facilitator).


  • 2004: Third Meeting, Irish Government. Theme: Participation is a two way street. Read the Report from the Meeting


  • 2003: Second Meeting: Greek Government. Theme: We also participate in Europe!. See the Report from the Meeting


  • 2001: First Meeting, Belgian Government focusing on housing, health, training and incomes. The big conclusion of this first event was that people experiencing poverty had the knowledge and expertise to analyse exclusion, and aimed to take part in society and the decisions that affect their life. The Report is entitled ‘Our Voices Must be Heard’