pencilsThis week saw a tumultuous few days in politics across Europe, with the final throes before the first round of the French elections, a referendum in Turkey, and the snap election announced in the UK for the beginning of June. Needless to say, debates, opinions and predictions abound to set forecasts for the next few months, and a multitude of scenarios are being foreseen involving multiple political and social configurations. What occurred to me however, is that whilst the focus turns to how the public is set to vote, what these forecasts often neglect is the issue surrounding those who will not be casting a vote or turning to the polls.

It has come to light in recent studies that the vast majority of people in our communities experiencing, or at risk of experiencing poverty and social exclusion abstain from participating in political elections at any level. This is a shocking reality, and jeopardizes not only the fundamental rights and freedoms of individuals; but also undermines social cohesion and democratic participation in society. Despite the aims to combat poverty and social exclusion outlined in the Europe 2020 strategy, current figures remain far from the desired amounts, and unemployment and poverty among young people is particularly prolific. This trend continues to be a concern among our network, driving the activities of many of our members and partners.

There’s no doubt that giving weight to inclusive and balanced social policies should be given worthy attention when considering elections and manifestos, but these policies remain inadequate if all individuals are not able to make their democratic choices, have their voices heard and feel their vote counts. In the twists and turns of electoral campaigns and the choices made by political leaders, let it not be forgotten that advocating for a more accessible and inclusive system that enables all people to make informed choices that will affect their lives is the key to a more balanced and democratic future. To this end, our members at Eurodiaconia continue working with people in various national and social contexts, helping foster full participation in social and political life, improved access to education, and material support to alleviate poverty and its effects.

Have a nice weekend,