One of the key objectives of the Europe 2020 strategy is to reduce the number of people at risk of poverty or social exclusion by 20 million relative to the levels in 2010. In 2016, one out of four Europeans were still at risk of poverty or social exclusion. Poverty is characterized by an accumulation of interconnected forms of inequality and exclusion in areas such as education, employment, housing, health and participation. It has multiple contributing factors such as unemployment or precarious jobs, low income/pensions, low educational attainment, health inequalities, high housing costs/poor housing quality among others, which makes it a crosscutting and complex issue. These factors tend to combine with others to create a vicious cycle of poverty that is structural and sometimes concentrated spatially within EU cities. Although poverty is not only an urban topic, urban authorities are central stakeholders to tackle it. As economic growth for some often leads to exclusion for others, the natural consequence is that cities concentrate both opportunities and social issues. In many cases, social differences between people and groups are strong and can lead to significant effects on the way that urban policies and public space are designed. Indeed, as poverty increases, so does the risk of concentration of the poor population in deprived areas, which often presents issues regarding social segregation, stigmatization, reduced mobility, limited access to health and education services, housing depravation and not only environmental degradation but also reduced public spending on its prevention.
Finding innovative solutions to these interconnected and complex issues was the objective of the first call for proposals launched in 2015 as well as of the fourth call launched in 2018.
- The overall idea of the UIA Call for Proposals in 2015 was to get projects proposals that addressed in particular deprived neighbourhoods and to bring forth innovative solutions combining people and place-based approaches. The main aim was to identify and implement sustainable solutions that would break the circle of social and spatial polarisation.
- The 2018 UIA Call for Proposals was less prescriptive in terms of subtopics proposed in the Terms of Reference. It invited cities to consider urban poverty from a cross-cutting perspective, looking at the different externalities and connections existing across diverse issues such as social, educational and spatial segregation, energy poverty, food and nutrition security, regeneration of deprived urban areas and neighbourhoods. In addition, the European Commission stressed the importance to target vulnerable or marginalized groups notably child poverty, homelessness, as well as Roma people and their integration in order to improve access to basic services such as education, healthcare, mobility services.