As the European Year for Combating Poverty, 2010 should, above all else, be the year for progress in the field of social inclusion. All efforts, good will and initiatives in this field are important and useful and I can only encourage them. By presenting this publication, I hope to draw your attention to a project particularly dear to my heart: Experts by experience in poverty and social exclusion.
These are experts of a new kind. A new form of knowledge based on personal experiences of poverty and social exclusion, which focuses its efforts on finding new ways to reduce the divide between our very poorest citizens and the rest of society, implement their rights and exercise their citizenship. Experts by experience in poverty and social exclusion are social inclusion professionals.
They are at the heart of a new and inspiring methodology. Among other things, they contribute to better frontline reception and better identification of the needs and sources of misunderstanding between administrations and people living in poverty. They are proof that, in our society, nobody is unwelcome and that we are all entitled to contribute to community life and to take part in its functioning.
Participation is the true origin of this new function, because, regardless of our level of responsibility, regardless of the type of organisation which we work for, in Belgium we have understood that the fight against poverty is not possible without the direct and constructive involvement of people who, themselves, actually live in situations of poverty. It is a matter of principle, but also (even above all), a question of effectiveness.
Including people living in poverty in the management of the policies which concern them has been, for many years, a key practice in Belgium. I am delighted to see that it is something which is becoming increasingly common, which is hailed and sometimes even exported elsewhere in Europe; our tradition of dialogue and consultation is certainly not foreign to that. Through the Experts by experience in poverty and social inclusion, our country is confirming once again its desire to continue to be a pioneer in this field.
Whether you are a reader attentive to changes in social measures, a manager of public services, an activist watchful of governmental initiatives, do not spare us your comments, observations and criticisms. Social progress is not possible without a citizen?s debate. Novelty is often synonymous with controversy.
The Fight against poverty is being and will be won by joining all our forces. With the Experts by experience in poverty and social exclusion as new partners at our sides, I am more determined than ever to make headway.
State Secretary for Social Integration and the Fight against Poverty