The European Economic and Social Committee released a survey study on 12th January 2021 entitled, “The response of civil society organisations to face the COVID-19 pandemic and the consequent restrictive measures adopted in Europe.” EASPD has provided a summary of the results found in the report.
The report outlined the societal challenges that the Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in several EU member states:
- The interruption of essential services during the lockdown with a specific emphasis on the disruption of several health and care services;
- The sharp increase of people in vulnerable socioeconomic situations due to job loss
- Sharpened inequalities and impoverishment
- The accentuation of discrimination phenomena such as ageism
- The lack of protection against domestic violence
- The worsened conditions of people suffering from intellectual, mental, physical and learning disabilities
- The effects of the digital divide
- Digital illiteracy and correlated inequalities in access and capacity to take advantage of the remote opportunities for learning
- Working and service provision across the population
- The threats posed by the pandemic on food supply and agricultural workforce shrinking in several regions
- The disruption of economic activities having on SMEs and liberal professions and more in general on trade relations and consumers habits
It reported that persons with intellectual, mental, physical and learning disabilities have experienced worsened conditions in terms of access to services combined with increased loneliness. Persons with disabilities face an increasing need for psychological and emotional support for themselves and their carers. Furthermore, the report states that changes in personal routines, worries and enduring self-isolation are highly stressful for any person. Still, they are likely to significantly impact persons with disabilities, as self-isolation stress contributes to worsening existing mental health conditions.
The report outlined that several CSOs across the EU have helped bring awareness of the pandemic’s impact on persons with disabilities and their rights. It also draws attention to promising practices and critical actions for states and other stakeholders to ensure persons with disabilities safety.
The report provided six main areas of policy recommendations:
- Foster and encourage new solidarity and a new form of social activism while promoting links and cross-fertilisation mechanisms between newly emerged groups and established CSOs
- Tackle the risks and take advantage of the opportunities brought by digitalisation
- Promote youth engagement and innovative programmes to encourage job creation linked in civic action
- Equip CSOs with the needed skills and resources to take the most advantage of networking, national and international cooperation
- Relieve bureaucracy and administrative burdens
- Engage CSOs in the design of climate and environment-friendly recovery plans
In conclusion, the report states that the COVID-19 pandemic has a profound impact on civil society and its organised forms. CSOs has to be included to ensure a swift and thriving recovery for all members of the community. The report wanted to point to the essential role of CSOs needs to play in the subsequent recovery period and the increasing need to reinforce their capacity and sustainability towards the promotion of a fairer, more equal and sustainable society.