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Town Twinning For Everyone by R3YiEM

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									Town Twinning for
Everyone
ST PATRICK CENTRE, DOWNPATRICK
8TH - 10TH MAY 2009



CONFERENCE REPORT


Project Ref. No. 09/0059




                                 1
INDEX
Introduction                                                             Page   03

Conference Objectives                                                    Page   06

Conference Planning                                                      Page   08

Conference Programme                                                     Page   09

Conference Implementation                                                Page   12

Evaluation/Monitoring                                                    Page   22

Conclusions                                                              Page   24

Recommendations                                                          Page   26

Annex A – General Information

Annex B - Press Clippings
                                     Picture courtesy of Down Democrat
 Picture courtesy of Down Democrat




                                                                                     2
INTRODUCTION

The Downpatrick/Listowel Linkage Group is a voluntary/community group
based in Northern Ireland and run by volunteers from both towns, Downpatrick
in Co Down and Listowel in Co Kerry.

Established in 1984, the Downpatrick Listowel Linkage Group is the oldest
established linkage in Ireland that promotes peace and reconciliation and allows
people to embrace the diversity of cultures throughout the island of Ireland, both
North and South. The linkage is also one that connects people of all ages to
develop meaningful closer relationships on both sides of the island, North and
South.

Through social, cultural and educational exchange visits the linkage affords
people in the North and South to gain a greater understanding of each other,
break down the barriers of mistrust, misunderstanding and ignorance that have
existed for many years, develop an insight into each other and build greater
lasting friendships for the benefit of future generations on the island of Ireland. In
recent years the group has embraced the concept of a much wider European
linkage and now works on the same concept as outlined above but promoting
this across a growing number of other European countries.

Over the year an average of 300 people take part in exchanges as part of a
major educational programme designed to create a better
understanding for people throughout the island. The group also helps shape
young people who are the leaders of tomorrow and the future of this island. If the
group can help people understand each other then it will leave a legacy for future
generations.

The group is funded by securing funding from various agencies and constant
fundraising events amongst the local communities. All the funds go towards the
projects and in particular targeting young people and those people who are
socially disadvantaged and therefore unable to participate in the exchanges.

All the political parties both in the North and the South of the Island support the
groups work and many local politicians sit on the committees in both towns. Due
to its success the group has received support from President Mary McAleese,
former Irish Taoiseach Mr Bertie Ahern and former Northern Ireland Assembly
Minister Dermot Nesbitt. In 2004 the group was honoured with a lunch hosted by
President Mary McAleese at Áras an Uachtaráin to celebrate the groups 21st
Birthday and its work in the field of conflict resolution and mediation.




                                                                                     3
The group’s main work involves –

   Co-ordinating educational exchanges allowing people from the North and
   South of the island of Ireland to gain an insight into each other;
   Promotes cross community North South social, cultural and educational links
   for people of all ages within the island of Ireland for approx. 300 people per
   annum;
   Develops opportunities for people to explore and express opinions in the
   context of better North South relationships;
   Helps people push back the barriers of mistrust built up through years of
   ignorance and misunderstandings;
   Encourages people, from the North and South of the island of Ireland, to
   share their own cultures and embrace others;
   Helps address North South issues that are affecting people from all over the
   island of Ireland;
   Through the process of mediation and conflict resolution allows people to gain
   skills to control and address conflict;
   Sustains the foundation of peace and reconciliation within the island of Ireland
   and across the European Union;
   Cascades the belief that each person has a role to play in the future of the
   island of Ireland, both North and South and the wider European Union;
   Helps develop people who are the future generation of the island of Ireland,
   both North and South;
   Promotes cross community exchanges within the Northern Ireland context;
   Acting as an umbrella voluntary group run by a committee of volunteers;
   Ensuring the work of the linkage embraces the ethos and principles of The
   Good Friday Agreement and all relevant EU Strategies; and
   Seeks to secure full government recognition both in the North and South of
   the island of the Ireland and the wider European Union.

Through the groups continued programme of activity over the last few years the
group has developed new town twinning partnerships linking it to towns in
France, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Poland, Portugal and Romania.

With these additional new town twinning partnerships Downpatrick has been
reviewing how it manages the existing and new town twinning partnerships over
the past year. Three committees managed the twinning partnerships,
Downpatrick Listowel Linkage Group, Downpatrick Bezons Twinning Association
and the Downpatrick Twinning Partnership.

Agreement between these three committees was reached recently that all would
come together under the Downpatrick Twinning Partnership which will be
responsible for all off the Downpatrick’s town twinning partnerships.




                                                                                 4
During this conference the twinning partnerships between Downpatrick and
Listowel and Downpatrick and Bezons celebrated their 25 anniversaries. This
was a major achievement for these twinning partnerships.

As part of the celebrations the partnerships announced that with effect from 9th
May 2009 (Europe Day) all twinning partnerships will fall under the direct
responsibility of the Downpatrick Twinning Partnership.

In addition Downpatrick signed town new twinning partnerships with Michalowice
in Poland and also with The Mountain Community of Iezer in Arges/Romania.

Downpatrick now has eight town twinning partnerships and with a further ninth
one under investigation with a town in Spain.




                                                                                   5
CONFERENCE AIMS/OBJECTIVES
Conference Aims
This conference aimed to bring together people involved with town twinning
partnerships to establish how more people from socially disadvantaged
backgrounds (including people with disabilities and from minorities such as ethnic
minorities) could be encouraged to take a more active participation in the town
twinning programme and therefore take a more active citizenship role within the
European Union.
It aimed to identify what are the social inclusion policies of the European Union
over the past 50 years and compare this with other social inclusion policies of the
countries in attendance to determine any discrepancies, allow a general debate
on what has been done to ensure that those people who are socially
disadvantaged are encouraged to get involved with town twinning, review the
social inclusion policies to determine if they have worked in allowing people to
fully participate within the town twinning programme and therefore take a more
active interest in European Union citizenship, discuss and reflect on the impact
these policies may have made and look at innovative and new ideals to
encourage greater participation in the town twinning programme and such
European Union events as Europe Day.
Following on from the debates, discussions and reflections the conference
allowed participants to identify how the socially disadvantaged could take a more
active role in the European Union programmes, the issues that may affect most
of them, and in particular how they can participate in town twinning and allow
them to ultimately have a more active participation in European citizenship.




                                                                                  6
Priority Theme
The priority theme of the conference was to ensure that participants develop
innovative and creative opportunities for those socially disadvantaged to take a
more active participation in town twinning and therefore a more active
participation in European citizenship and European events.

The conference also served as a basis for future co-operation between the
participants and towns involved in the promotion of social inclusion within their
town twinning programmes and the relevant sharing of best practice and
innovation ideas as well as promoting European Union flagship events such as
Europe Day.

Horizontal Features
The conference allowed the promotion of the European Values of those people
who are socially disadvantaged and reflect on the role they have had in shaping
the future of the European Union over the last 50 years.

It also allowed participants to look at ways to encourage those people who are
socially disadvantaged (including people with disabilities and from ethnic
minorities) to share their voice with the European Union and the concerns or
issues facing them within the European Union should also be the concerns and
issues for all of us.

During the conference participants examined the barriers, such as financial
circumstances, that may exclude those socially disadvantaged from participating
in Europe and in particular the town twinning programme and what can be done
to overcome these barriers. The conference also allowed participants to look at
ways of building bridges between the socially disadvantaged and other European
Union citizens.

This conference, in a small way, contributed to the promotion of the socially
disadvantaged more active participation within the European Union programmes,
specifically town twinning, and contributed to more sustainable networks by
introducing participants to each other from a large number of European Union
countries.

In addition the conference allowed the host town to showcase Europe Day as a
way to promote the European Union and the importance of such key events in
bringing us all together to celebrate a more united European Union.




                                                                                    7
CONFERENCE PLANNING
The planning of the conference took place over the period 1st March – 11th May
2009 with the actual conference taking place from Friday 8th May through to
Sunday 10th May 2009.

Much of the planning was spent investigating potential speakers for the
conference, researching the background to the European Union Town Twinning
and Social Inclusion policies. This involved much research mainly by internet,
talking with the other town twinning groups who planned to participate including
from Poland, Latvia, Hungary, France, Ireland, Portugal, Italy, Romania and the
UK, contacting relevant officials within the European Commission, town twinning
and community associations and agencies who support the concept of town
twinning and social inclusion.

Invitations were issued by email and post to all the partner towns who are linked
to Downpatrick through town twinning agreements or who are developing
potential partnerships with the town and by post to some other interested
individuals/ organisations which have a vested interest in the areas of town
twinning and social inclusion. The conference was also promoted on a number of
European Union web sites such as the Local Government Information Bureau.

Speakers included Ms Margaret Ritchie, Minister for Social Development at the
Northern Ireland Assembly, Mr Eddie McGrady, Member of the UK Parliament,
Cllr Colin McGrath, Chairman of Down District Council and also a Youth Worker
with the Patrician Youth Centre in Downpatrick, Mr John Noble, Conference
Chairman and Chairman of the Downpatrick Listowel Linkage Group and
President of the Downpatrick Twinning Partnership and Ms Vicki Maguire,
General Manager of Down Community Arts.

Conference workshop facilitators included Ms Vicki Maguire, Mrs Emma Bell, Mrs
Glenda Dennis and Mr John Noble.

This conference report was written to be shared with the delegates in attendance
and a wider circulation across the European Union.




                                                                                   8
CONFERENCE PROGRAMME
A varied programme for the conference was developed to allow the sharing of
information on the European Union town twinning and the social inclusion
policies and to examine what work has been done over the last 50 years to
encourage those people who are socially disadvantaged to take a more active
interest in the European Union.

The programme also allowed delegates the opportunity to share their
experiences of town twinning and how they have been engaging socially
disadvantaged people in their town twinning programmes.

During the conference delegates received information on examples of best
practice in the area of involving socially disadvantaged people in the town
twinning programme and what more could be done to encourage even more to
take a more active participation in the European Union.

Information at the conference was given by way of presentations on the various
themes/topics detailed in the programme of the conference. The presentations
were then followed by discussions in workshops. Within the workshops
facilitators drew out the relevant information that provided input into this final
report.

The social aspect of the conference allowed the delegates to share their
experiences and find out more on what other town twinning partnerships are
doing to involve socially disadvantaged people in the town twinning programme.
The group was delighted to secure a visit to the Northern Ireland Assembly prior
to the start of the conference as the guest of Ms Margaret Ritchie, Minister with
responsibility for Social Inclusion at the Northern Ireland Assembly.




                                                                                     9
DAILY PROGRAMME
Thursday 7th May 2009

Arrival of delegations at various times during this day.

20.00 pm Official pre-conference dinner in Denvirs Hotel to celebrate the 25th
anniversary of the Downpatrick Listowel Linkage Group.

Friday 8th May 2009

9.00 am Depart for a short visit to Belfast followed by tour of the Northern Ireland
Assembly at 11.30 pm (lunch included).

13.00 pm Depart NI Assembly for St Patrick Centre in Downpatrick.

14.00 pm Conference welcome by Mr John Noble,Chairman of Downpatrick
Listowel Linkage Group and President Elect of the Downpatrick Twinning
Partnership

14.05 pm Official Welcome from Cllr Colin McGrath, Chairman of Down District
Council.

14.10 pm Official Opening of the Conference at the St Patrick Centre by
Margaret Ritchie MLA, Minister for Social Development.

14.25 pm 1st Conference session ‘Has Everyone Been Included?’ which will be a
session that will reflect on the European Union’s work to promote social inclusion
(including coffee break).

Open session examining the social inclusion policies of the European Union and
countries present, what policy initiatives have been made to encourage more
socially disadvantaged people to get involved with Europe, and a general
discussion on what has been done to promote a greater active citizen
participation in Europe for socially disadvantaged people.

17.30 pm Depart St Patrick Centre for evening dinner at Downpatrick
Racecourse.

Saturday 9th May 2009

10.00 am 2nd Conference session ‘Does Europe Exclude?’ which will on how
socially disadvantaged people can be encouraged to take a more active role or
participate more in Europe.


                                                                                  10
This workshop will examine what should be done to promote the voice of the
socially disadvantaged people in Europe and how we can encourage them
through town twinning and events such as Europe Day to participate more as
active citizens of Europe. There will also be some work carried out on how best
to let the socially disadvantaged people be heard in Europe.

11.00 am Coffee break.

11.30 pm Workshop Feedback followed by lunch at 12.30 pm

13.30 pm 3rd Conference session ‘Inclusive Europe’ on what work is currently
being undertaken to increase the involvement of the socially disadvantaged
people in their Europe.

This session will showcase examples of best practice of how socially
disadvantaged people are being involved with Europe through town twinning.

17.00 pm Signing of new twinning agreements between Downpatrick and The
Mountain Community of Iezer in Arges/Romania and Michalowice in Poland.

20.00 pm Celebration of Europe Day at Downpatrick Cricket Club.

An evening that will showcase the artistic cultures and cuisine of the European
Union countries represented. This evening will allow us to celebrate Europe Day
and show what a united Europe should look like.

Sunday 10th May 2009

10.00 am Final Conference session in Rathdune House ‘Europe for Everyone’
to examine what more should be done to encourage socially disadvantaged
people to get their voice heard in Europe and to get them to take a more active
participation in Europe and its programmes such as town twinning.

A session to explore new and innovative ways by participants of town twinning
partnerships to encourage socially disadvantaged people to participate more in
Europe through town twinning and events such as Europe Day so as to let their
voice be heard.

12.30 pm Closing of conference with lunch.




                                                                                  11
CONFERENCE IMPLEMENTATION
1st Conference session ‘Has Everyone Been Included?’

This session reflected on the European Union’s work to promote social inclusion
and was an open session with special guest speaker Minister Ritchie outlining
the social inclusion policy in Northern Ireland and the Conference Chairman Mr
John Noble giving an overview presentation of the European Union policy on
social inclusion. The other countries present also gave an overview of what
policy initiatives are available in their respective countries to encourage more
socially disadvantaged people to get involved with Europe.
At the end of the presentations there was a general discussion on what has been
done to promote a greater active citizen participation in Europe for socially
disadvantaged people.
In general terms it was agreed that the European Union takes the issue of Social
Inclusion very serious indeed. Over the last number of decades many policies
and strategies have been adopted to help promote social inclusion. These have
included -
The Poverty 1 Programme 1975 - 1980;
The Poverty 2 Programme 1985 - 1989;
The Poverty 3 Programme 1989 - 1994;
The Poverty 4 Programme; and
The EU Council of Lisbon in 2000.
Since 2000 the aim of the European Union has been to eradicate poverty by
2010 and with this aim European Union Leaders established the Social Inclusion
Process to make a decisive impact on eradicating poverty by 2010. The
European Union has been working with all European Union Member States to
achieve this aim through a series of strategies and monitoring reports. Indeed
2010 has been declared the European Year for Combating Poverty and Social
Inclusion.
This re-affirms the European Union's commitment to making a decisive impact on
the eradication of poverty by 2010. Raising public awareness of the way poverty
continues to blight the daily lives of so many Europeans is key to the success of
this aim.




                                                                               12
Delegates believed that much work was being undertaken across Europe and
promoted by the European Union to increase the involvement of socially
disadvantaged within Europe through many strategies and action plans. It was
however felt that there was a lack of awareness as some people do not seem to
be aware of all of this work, of what support is available to encourage everyone
to get involved and the relevant people to make contact with so as to engage
with promoting social inclusion.

Generally the delegates believed that their respective countries have strategies
or action plans for tackling social inclusion which would compliment the work the
European. However many believed that this was at a very high level and that
engaging with the socially disadvantaged is more effective at grassroots or
community level.
In a general forum discussion it was determined that although the European
Union has ways of engaging with socially disadvantaged people many delegates
are unaware of how these people can get involved with the many programmes
across the European Union. It was also agreed that many delegates are not
familiar with all the various programmes originating from the European Union and
the funding opportunities available. Agreement was reached that various
European Union programmes are supported well in most countries such as those
for Universities, colleges, student and youth exchanges and educational co-
operation. However this was not the same for all programmes and it was felt that
much was to learn from these types of programmes. It was noted that targeting
the socially disadvantaged in this way may assist but would not perhaps bring
about major changes due to the educational barrier felt by the socially
disadvantaged. Delegates agreed that a lack of marketing/promotion may be the
main reason for this unawareness of the strategic planning, the European Union
programmes and the funding opportunities for engaging with the socially
disadvantaged.
There was also a short discussion outlining that as the European Union
expanded more and more countries have joined and knowledge of European
Union programmes has been slow to disseminate to those countries.

Delegates stated that sometimes the European Union can be seen as being too
bureaucratic and this can lead to people feeling socially excluded, particularly if
the educational aspirations of those people are limited. More practical support
may be needed to enhance the educational aspirations of those people. It was
noted however by delegates that the situation overall in terms of social inclusion
has been improved within the last 10 years. Many delegates believed that this
could be due to the fact more and more countries have to develop specific
strategies or action plans for tackling social inclusion as part of their commitment
to the European Union.




                                                                                  13
It was suggested that the European Union needs to engage more with member
states to promote social inclusion at a local level. This could be achieved with the
promotion of events through the Town Twinning programme like this conference
and which could open doors for other people to become more familiar with
European Union programmes, the programmes of each member state and
therefore promote social inclusion on a much wider and broader scale.

It was agreed that this conference was a small way of raising awareness of the
European Union's aim and perhaps can make us think about how we all can help
the European Union achieve the aim of promoting social inclusion.

2nd Conference session ‘Does Europe Exclude?’

This session was carried out through workshops to explore if socially
disadvantaged people can be encouraged to take a more active role or
participate more in Europe.

Delegates broke into groups and examined what should be done to promote the
voice of the socially disadvantaged people in Europe and how we can encourage
more participation through town twinning and events such as Europe Day. There
was also some work carried out on how best to let the socially disadvantaged
people be heard in Europe.

It was agreed at the conference that promotional activity through National
Government Organisation’s and local authorities could help open up
opportunities for the socially disadvantaged to engage more fully in all aspects of
society life and in the European Union.

Delegates agreed that people are very important in terms of the European Union
and that it is imperative that we try and reach out to all members of society. This
can be done by starting at a local level and engaging more fully with people
which in turn will lead them to engaging fully locally and then when comfortable
engaging with the European Union. Specialised events championing or
showcasing Europe would be a great start to engaging the socially
disadvantaged.

Through such events the participants could gain a valuable experience or interest
in Europe or be educated on another aspect of European life. Looking at the
interests of the socially disadvantaged could help make an event more
successful as the topic or interest would be generally acceptable to those
participants. Projects that attract support from all sections of the community could
be used or special events that engage people through their own interests. This
could be through sports, cultural, language, youth or one off events and be
targeted specifically at those people who are socially disadvantaged.




                                                                                  14
The idea would also be to build this around an event that showcases the
European Union and/or the European way of life. An example could be a day of
sport to celebrate Europe Day which would involve the local community but also
showcase sports from across the European Union.

Encouraging people locally can then build upon the work to get those people
involved with Europe. Some suggestions at this stage would be to watch the
language that people use while encouraging people to get involved, develop
ideas around peoples own local interests, have informal meetings, dress
informally and look at financial implications. This would allow people to get
involved feeling comfortable and then slowly move forward step by step.

There was a final discussion in this session of the conference that outlined that
as the European Union has got larger some people, particularly minority groups,
may feel further excluded. It was agreed that these people may not have been
able to or have the capacity to get involved or have an educational disadvantage.
Delegates felt that all of us had a role to play along with the European Union to
ensure that people do get motivated to participate and that all barriers such as
educational, language and financial are removed. This all should start at a local
level which could encourage many people to get involved and if people do not
feel part of their own community they will not feel a part of their country or in the
wider context a part of the European Union.


3rd Conference session ‘Inclusive Europe’

This session explored what work is currently being undertaken to increase the
involvement of the socially disadvantaged people in their Europe and showcased
some examples of best practice of how socially disadvantaged people are being
involved with Europe through town twinning.

At this stage of the conference many delegates came to the conclusion that if
people want to take part they will but that sometimes perhaps people need the
support and opportunity to say ‘I want to participate’.

Many European Union programmes offer an opportunity for everyone to get
involved such as the Lifelong Learning Programme, Employment Programmes,
European Social Fund, Youth in Action, Cultural Programmes and Town
Twinning. There would appear to be many opportunities available but sometimes
not used through a lack of knowledge and again it was agreed that more
promotional activity needs to take place both from the European Union and the
respective member states. A further discussion at this stage also suggested that
people are not just motivated sometimes to grasp the opportunities available.




                                                                                   15
Motivation became a key discussion at this stage of the conference and pat of
this may be that language can be a barrier to engaging with other people from
across the European Union. Language classes would appear to be an excellent
way of getting over this barrier but then the issue of finance may prove as a
barrier when trying to engage with the socially disadvantaged. It was noted
however that the movement of people across the European Union for
employment and training may enhance the promotion of social inclusion as these
people are highly motivated to actually grasp the opportunities available.

In Romania public authority encourages people but many of these people do not
have the organisational culture and therefore the sharing of best practice is
important. The best practice could show people how to get involved. There was
reference made of a very good best practice involving Sweden, Denmark and
Norway, which might be worthwhile researching further. It was noted that in
Poland and in Latvia there were special programmes targeting the long term
unemployed and which included professional training on how to look for a job. In
the UK there have been arts and cultural workshops for the socially
disadvantaged and a schools programme called Education for Mutual
Understanding (EMU) which promotes bringing people together. In Latvia there
have also been a special fund established to help socially disadvantaged and/or
people with disabilities find employment.

Romania has equal opportunities for ethnic minorities, a model for curriculum
development, institutional changes in school life leading to better school results,
and also all school children can learn another language mostly French and
English. Romania has also provided additional resources to poor schools and
has developed good links to training centres. Transport, food, bread and milk are
also supported at a local level.

In Poland there is an educational focus on Europe in schools which could be a
model example of how to encourage more involvement with Europe. Poland are
also engaging more and more in town twinning with the direct aim to involve the
socially disadvantaged in this programme. This should enable those people to
engage more with Europe.

In France people are not good at promoting the European Union or other
languages, there are social difficulties for families at a local level which would not
help promote social inclusion on a wider European Union scale, an elite society
appears to be growing allowing for a wider gap between rich and poor, private
education is growing once again widening the gap between those in public and
private education, local taxes impact on social inclusion, teachers are not able to
provide the same support to students and the political system in the country also
does not help social inclusion. The French delegates believed that the system
was better in the past.




                                                                                    16
In addition to the above it was noted that the French delegation have limited
twinning experiences at the present time focusing mainly on sports, music and
dance although some of this work would promote social inclusion indirectly.
Funding was also an issue that was raised at this point.

Ireland provides a lot of support at a voluntary and community level but this is not
always widely known to the larger community. Themed projects within its town
twinning programme has allowed that town to create a wider awareness of the
relevant issues locally. More work however should be undertaken to widen its
reach and also to widen its experiences of other European Union member states.

The Downpatrick Listowel Linkage Group outlined some of its best practice
promoting social inclusion within its town twinning programme over the past 10
years. Within its programme of annual town twinning exchanges it targeted
young people from socially disadvantaged backgrounds, involving them with
exchanges with other young people. The participants were targeted through
marketing the exchange to local community groups, youth centres, church
groups and schools all working in socially disadvantaged areas to ensure that a
wide representation of the community were able to get involved. This allowed the
young people to gain an awareness and understanding of town twinning and
therefore promoting the positive experiences to their peers, family and friends.
The group also ensured that its constitution was all embracing to ensure
maximum exposure within the community it worked in and developed a process
of home hosting that allowed for greater integration of all participants within the
community they were visiting or staying. This also reduced the huge cost of
hotels and accommodation and therefore removed the financial barrier. In
addition the group also targeted funding, providing a subsidy for those people,
who are socially disadvantaged so as to ensure that they could get involved with
the groups town twinning programme. Event or exchange themes were designed
around interests that attracted everyone’s involvement but then a European
theme was sewn through the programme. This allowed people to get involved
locally with their respective interests but then had an opportunity to get to know
other European people with similar interests.

Overall this has provided an educational and learning experience for all
participants and allowed the group to encourage more people to get involved with
town twinning.




                                                                                 17
Many countries in attendance agreed that they have learned much from this
conference and would aim to learn more from each other and share the best
practice, particularly surrounding the promotion of social inclusion.

Some barriers had been identified in this session such as the delegation from
Poland outlined it was difficult getting people interested and also the targeting of
the right people perhaps due to lack of motivation. Ireland outlined that it felt it
was always the same people who got involved and this could be also due to the
fact these people are motivated.

Delegates also stated that people need to understand their own community
before embarking on twining projects with other countries and this may not
always be the case. Sometimes people are not involved with projects or events
at a local level so therefore they will not get involved with a project or event that
takes them out of their own comfort zone, particularly to another country where
language and the financial situation will be barriers.




                                                                                    18
Final Conference session ‘Europe for Everyone’

The final session of the conference was to examine what more should be done to
encourage socially disadvantaged people to get their voice heard in Europe and
to get them to take a more active participation in Europe and its programmes
such as town twinning.

A session within this part of the conference explored new and innovative ways by
participants of town twinning partnerships to encourage socially disadvantaged
people to participate more in Europe through town twinning and events such as
Europe Day so as to let their voice be heard.
A discussion took place on how the socially disadvantaged could participate
more in Europe through the Town Twinning Programme. It was agreed that the
well established Town Twinning Programme can be sustained by getting
everyone involved and then their participation continues on throughout their life.
It was believed that the Town Twinning Programme can be a great vehicle for
getting the socially disadvantaged involved with the European Union, particularly
for the first time.
Sharing experiences of town twinning between adults and young people should
be promoted so that each can learn from each others experiences and to
highlight the benefits of town twinning.
Delegates agreed that formal exchanges can work but that sometimes a more
informal exchange can have a greater impact and allows participants to gain a
greater awareness of European Union issues and lead to a better experience of
the European way of life. Cultural, educational and social activities are a great
way to show people another countries way of life and what is it like to be a part of
the European Union.
European Union Programmes should be promoted more locally through town
twinning projects and then widen this to other European towns. This could allow
for the sharing of best practice, knowledge, experiences and information with
each other and also for the development of some motivational programmes to
get people involved by working within their own interests i.e. arts, sports, food
festival etc.
There would also need to be some work done to change perception of town
twinning away from the council junkets and one off events to show the long term
advantages of the programme, which could promote self esteem, confidence,
ambition, knowledge, understanding and the financial support.




                                                                                  19
Financial or funding resources should be targeted at initiatives that attract or
promote social inclusion and a greater marketing of the European Union
programmes in general should be done to reduce the lack of knowledge and
understanding. More communication between people working at a local level and
the European Union should be undertaken. Within the town twinning programme
funding incentives should be given to those partnerships fully including socially
disadvantaged within their programme of activity. This funding should also be
given to all partners confirming this action is being met.
Training should be undertaken for European Union policy makers on how to
engage more fully with the socially disadvantaged as all member states are not
working in a cohesive manner.
Much more simplified programmes and funding application processes could lead
to more people getting involved as sometimes they are prohibited by the
application process particularly those from socially disadvantaged backgrounds.
It was believed that town twinning is only one way which can get socially
disadvantaged people involved with the European Union and that more direct
contact from all levels of decision makers in the European Union with socially
disadvantaged people could also increase their further participation. Town
twinning was seen as a way to give the socially disadvantaged a taste of the
European Union and once that taste happens many socially disadvantaged
people will continue to explore the European Union in more depth. In that way
the socially disadvantaged will feel a more belonging to the European Union
especially if they feel that people are listening to and taking an interest in them.
Delegates believed that recommendations or actions arising from this conference
should be addressed by the European Union and that a direct approach by the
conference organisers to the European Union may influence future action. This
may allow the European Union to look at their programmes and see what more it
can do to get the socially disadvantaged involved and therefore sustain
involvement or increase the participation of the socially disadvantaged in the
European Union programmes.
Although throughout this conference the reference to socially disadvantaged
included groups such as ethnic minorities, disabled, community groups etc there
may need to be some work to specifically target those particular groups to get
involved.
Promoting adult language classes is seen as key to the success of getting more
and more socially disadvantaged people involved as this would appear to be a
major barrier.
Target financial support to those most in need and providing support in preparing
funding applications and handling the funding once secured, particularly to those
with limited educational ability.

                                                                                       20
There needs to be an examination of projects that target motivation as
highlighted by the Latvian delegation to see if best practice in this area can be
used to get more socially disadvantaged people involved with their local
community, the town twinning and other European Union programmes and then
ultimately the European Union




                                                                                21
EVALUATION/ MONITORING
The conference was evaluated and monitored both during the conference and on
the last day. The evaluation was based on the overall aims of the conference, the
venues, programme content, facilitators and refreshments.

In summary, the evaluation sheets and verbal feedback on the conference
identified that the conference –

   Offered practical help and information on encouraging more socially
   disadvantaged people to get involved with the European Union through town
   twinning;

   Was a networking opportunity and allowed for new friendships/partnerships to
   be developed;

   Increased awareness of the wider European Union social inclusion and town
   twinning issues;

   Workshops were practical and many felt they had been very informative and
   allowed for active participation;

   Allowed a greater insight into the issue of the socially disadvantaged and how
   through the town twinning programme people can get be encouraged to get
   involved with the European Union and therefore a chance to be heard in
   Europe;

   Afforded an opportunity to explore and discuss the many social inclusion
   issues that are common within the European Union;

   Showed that the on going issues on social inclusion across the European
   Union are not that far apart in each country;

   Shared experiences of good practice in getting the socially disadvantaged
   involved in the European Union through the town twinning programme and
   also what can be gained from promoting it;

   Allowed everyone to outline what more can be done to give those people who
   felt socially excluded a greater voice in the European Union;

   Offered an opportunity to outline what more can be done to get the socially
   disadvantaged involved with the European Union ;


                                                                                 22
Confirmed that the European Union has much more to do if it is to promote
the work it does with social inclusion and in particular through town twinning;

Proved that socially disadvantaged people have difficulty engaging with
Europe;

Allowed existing town twinning partnerships to improve the work they are
doing and strengthen partnerships; and

That the conference organisation, venue, refreshments, transport, handouts,
information and entertainment were very good.




                                                                              23
CONCLUSIONS
The organising group believes that all the conference aims and objectives were
met in full.

The conference allowed the delegates to explore, discuss, share, understand
and respect the social inclusion and town twinning policies within the European
Union and how town twinning can be used as a catalyst for giving the socially
disadvantaged an opportunity to get involved with Europe. It also showed how
with some town twinning partnerships participation of the socially disadvantaged
within its programme was in fact taking place.

The conference also allowed for an opportunity for networking of existing and
new town twinning partnerships to determine what work is already being done to
encourage more socially disadvantaged people to get involved with the European
Union. It also provided an opportunity to develop an educational programme to
create an awareness, understanding and knowledge of the many European
Union programmes that are going on which can only encourage more people,
including the socially disadvantaged, to take a more active role within the
European Union.

The conference allowed delegates to examine how within the framework of town
twinning partnerships everyone can bring about a greater European Union
unification by promoting the positive aspects of Europe. It was agreed that
everyone can have an opportunity to influence the policy/decision makers and
thus building a better and stronger European Union community, free from
intimidation, fear, misunderstanding and ignorance of each other. However the
issue of getting people involved and motivated are important issues to ensure
that this happens.

A number of follow up meetings from delegates within the partnership were
discussed and potential follow up actions may be developed. These follow up
meetings included interest in developing sharing some of the best practice
identified and showcased at the conference. The organising group will also
discuss with the European Commission how best the town twinning programme
can help engage more socially disadvantaged people by looking at innovative
ways to address the barriers of language, motivation and finance.




                                                                                 24
One important aspect of the conference was the identification that more
opportunities for the sharing of ideas, experiences, expertise, projects and
partnerships within town twinning is needed. Partnerships tend to work in
isolation with the exception of a small cohort and the European Union should
consider more ways to allow people to share information on the work of twinning
partnerships and best practice through more regular forums/workshops or
conferences. Conference delegates identified a need for more conferences of
this kind so that well established town twinning partnerships can share countries
experiences and engage with the newer members of the European Union.




                                                                               25
RECOMMENDATIONS
 The Downpatrick Listowel Linkage Group to share this report with its town
 twinning partners and their respective partners.

 The town twinning partners in attendance should all examine ways (including
 the best practice shared at the conference) to embed social inclusion within
 their town twinning and/ or other European activities.

 The best practice examined at the conference should be further shared with
 each other and the model from Sweden, Norway and Denmark should be
 investigated and shared, if appropriate.

 All partners should seek to promote European events such as Europe Day at
 a local level.

 Targeted marketing should be considered by each partner to actively engage
 more people from a social disadvantaged background. This should include
 groups such as ethnic minorities and the disabled, although not just as
 restrictive.

 The European Union and each twinning partner should examine ways to
 motivate people through a focused marketing/promotional strategy thereby
 creating a greater awareness of all European Union programmes.

 A more focused link should be made to town twinning and social inclusion.

 Areas of particular interest to people such as sport, arts, culture, health and
 education, although not an exhaustive list, should be used as an avenue to
 get the socially disadvantaged involved.

 All policy/decision makers within all European Union programmes should
 consult widely at country level and if possible at a local level through such
 partnerships as the Downpatrick Listowel Linkage Group to ensure that social
 inclusion is embedded into activities.

 The European Union Town Twinning Programme should be amended to take
 account of input from socially disadvantaged groupings.

 Additional funding should be allowed within the Town Twinning programme
 for the targeting of more socially disadvantaged people and the application
 processes should be simplified thereby encouraging more socially
 disadvantaged groups to get involved with European Union programmes.



                                                                                   26
More work should be done to remove the stigma associated with Town
Twinning that the programme is a council junket and that socially
disadvantaged groups or people should be more fully involved within this
programme.

Sharing more experiences of best practice in the field of social inclusion
within the town twinning programme should be promoted by the European
Union.




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                                                                 ANNEX A
EUROPEAN UNION PROGRAMMES

European Union Town Twinning Programme
Town twinning is a reality in today's Europe, as an important number of
municipalities are linked to each other through a formal town twinning agreement.
Such partnership aims at encouraging cooperation between the towns and
mutual understanding between their citizens. The Town twinning movement has
developed after the Second World War, in parallel to the progress made by the
European integration process. One of the major developments was the
establishment of new town twinning links between European Union Member
States and countries from Central or Eastern Europe after the fall of the Berlin
Wall, anticipating and preparing their integration in the European Union.
Town twinning represents a unique and dense network and therefore has a
specific role to play with regard to the challenges of today's Europe, which are
reflected in the objectives of this Programme.
First, town twinning relies upon the voluntary commitment of citizens, in
collaboration with their local authorities and local associations. It is therefore both
a sign of, and an incentive to active participation. Second, it encourages
exchanges of experiences on a variety of issues of common interest, thereby
raising awareness on the advantages of finding concrete solutions at European
level. Finally, it provides unique opportunities to learn about the daily lives of
citizens in other European countries, to talk to them and very often to develop
friendships with them. Thanks to the combination of those elements, town
twinning has a real potential to enhance mutual understanding between citizens,
fostering a sense of ownership of the European Union and finally developing a
sense of European identity.




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