Our vision is a democratic, diverse and peaceful world, where any individual can live up to their full potential, free from alcohol and other drugs.
1. Active’s View on Social Inclusion
The importance of social inclusion for individuals, especially children and youth, and for society at large is growing. Economic and political crisis in Europe means children and young people find it harder to see their legitimate needs taken care of because of spending cuts and austerity measures that burden children and young people. Especially marginalized and particularly vulnerable youth, like children of alcoholics, are affected. Also, if Europe is to come out stronger from the crisis and the young generation is to have a fair chance at living up to their full potential, the need for society to counter these trends of social disintegration is growing. Active considers and addresses both these dimensions in its work for more and better social inclusion in Europe.
Active wants to play an active role in helping young Europeans to live up to their full potential. We want to do this both by including everyone who wants to be in a safe and enabling environment where meaningful activites and relationships can be built, and by giving a voice to children and young people and to represent them in the decision-making processes on European, national and local level.
2. Finding a Role in Society
Growing-up is a process of finding one’s identity and one’s role in society. Every human being goes through this process to develop self-esteem, a sense of belonging and a set of values that help the individual to navigate through life. From the complexity of this process derives the importance of social inclusion; that any human being should feel she belongs and is accepted and is free from pressure to do certain activities. Social inclusion is crucial for the skills and abilities that can develop during this process and to the ability to reach the full potential as a human being.
Alcohol and other drugs in Europe are a threat to the development of self-esteem and the realization of the full potential of individuals. The alcohol norm in Europe creates tremendous pressure on young people, and often makes them choose behaviors that they are not truly happy with and that they do not feel themselves reflected in.
Moreover, the alcohol norm contributes to a huge lack of safe environments and meaningful activities. The impact of alcohol on social gatherings is often that it contributes to flouting norms of social decency and conduct; racist jokes, sexual harassment and the like are too often being excused when alcohol is involved. This part of the European alcohol culture contributes to social exclusion.
The pressure and expectations on individuals and the lack of common safe environments from this pressure have negative influence on the mental well-being, the development of a sense of belonging and meaning, and the self-esteem of young Europeans.
4. Children of Alcoholics
All young Europeans are exposed to the detrimental effects of weakening social inclusion, but there are especially marginalized groups who deserve extra attention and efforts. Alcohol consumption in Europe is higher than anywhere else in the world and there are at least 9 million children of alcoholics in the European Union alone.
Children and young people growing up with adults around them who are dependent on alcohol often suffer from a number of problems. Their risk of ill-health and developing dependence later in life is much higher, their childhood ends too early when they have to take over the partents’ role at home and often their social life is compromised because they have to start lying and do not feel that they can bring friends home and have to prioritize caring for the parents and family members instead of other things. Also,their intellectual performance is jeopardized due to the emotional instability. Moreover, children of alcoholics often witness or experience violence and abuse or even have to endure it themselves.
5. Youth Organizations and Activities
Too few youth organizations and activities are free from alcohol and other drugs. This can lead to events that totally contradict the mission of youth organizations when the informal social moments are usurped by alcohol use.
Youth organizations play a crucial role in providing safe environments for young people, where they can develop skills, find their values, realize their potential and find out about who they are and who they want to be. Youth organizations and their activities have the first and foremost mission to make sure that young people, no matter the background, origin or conviction, can find opportunities to develop self-esteem and a sense of belonging in society.
Society makes children of alcoholics invisible. Society allocates too few resources to support such marginalized young people, often leaving them alone to struggle with problems that society is responsible for. Moreover, there are too few opportunities and places for young Europeans to enjoy a safe, creative, meaningful leisure time during their childhood and adolescence years.
7. Alcohol Harm in Europe
Alcohol causes medical, social, economic and democratic harms.
a) Medical Harm
Mental disorders have become Europe’s largest health challenge in the 21st century. Each year, 38.2% of the EU’s population – or 164.8 million people – suffer from a mental disorder. As a result, disorders of the brain, as measured by disability-adjusted life years (DALYs), are the largest contributor to the EU’s total morbidity burden, accounting for 26.6% of the total disease burden, covering the full spectrum of all diseases.
The four most disabling single conditions (in terms of DALYs) were depression, dementias, alcohol use and stroke. The onset-age of alcohol use in the EU is 12.5 years, which means that children and youth are putting their brains’ mental capabilities and health at considerable risk.
There are lots of children born with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD), due to alcohol use during pregnancy. This disability is still not recognized enough in healthcare in Europe. Affected children have an increased need for social inclusion.
b) Social harm
The alcohol norm in Europe dictates that alcohol be part of every social gathering. It is not a question whether or not to start using alcohol, but when. This culture intoxicates the childhoods and adolescent years of too many young Europeans. It is a culture that excludes many people or forces them to do things that they do not really feel comfortable with.
The social harm is tremendous among young Europeans because of the unsafe environments that are available for their leisure time activities.
1. Policies for an Inclusive Europe
Alcohol and other drugs are a threat to the mental health of young Europeans, but to understand and see one’s value and develop a self-esteem growing-up free from those substances is fundamental. Only then will young people gain the tools needed for a life of realizing their full potential. Active’s role comes from two perspectives, the social inclusion and the peer support perspective. Active chooses to take an integrated and comprehensive approach towards fostering more and better social inclusion in Europe. Active recognizes its own role and importance, like the role of all other NGOs, and therefore Active in the following addresses two dimensions:
How Active chooses to run its activities to promote social inclusion internally and inside its member organizations. In this dimension of our social inclusion work we fill the name of our organization with meaning: Active – sobriety, friendship and peace.
What Active advocates in the political arena on European, national and local level for Europe to become better at social inclusion.
Both dimensions are strongly interconnected and rely on each other. Without being inclusive and living up to its values and vision about social inclusion, Active will not be able to be a credible voice for socially excluded and marginalized youth. Without being that voice, bringing attention to the situation of for example children of alcoholics, Active will not manage to bring about change. We cannot make Europe more inclusive and safer on our own, but we can start by making sure that we do all we can in our own events.
Social inclusion is about the character of meetings and how people feel during them. The atmosphere and climate of an organization that can be a channel for, but also, an obstacle of social inclusion. Therefore, Active elaborates external demands for NGOs, decision-makers and society at large to step up action concerning social inclusion, safe meetings and organizational culture.
a) Youth work
Active’s social inclusion work takes the starting point in two different perspectives: the including perspective and the peer support perspective. To work with the including perspective in Active means to make efforts for creating social contexts where all get the same possibilities to take part according to their skills and needs. Active’s efforts for peer support are about creating methods so that all young people find a safe and enabling environment, especially children of alcoholics. It is also about spreading knowledge and understanding for children of alcoholics to be able to identify and help during the activities and even in their own member organizations, but also to understand and develop a sense of compassion.
Active consists of diverse member organizations with different but equal members from all kinds of backgrounds, origins, beliefs and inclinations. The only thing we need to have in common is that we all strive for a more democratic, diverse and peaceful world, where any individual can live up to their full potential, free from alcohol and other drugs. Everything else can differ from member to member because every individual is unique. This uniqueness and difference is highly welcomed in Active and all our events and activities. All Active members have the right for the same things, which means that Active events and activities are to be adjusted to this reality. Our organization takes its starting point from the conviction that all people have the same value and that all have the same rights.
b) Safe Meetings
Meetings occur whenever Active and its member organizations arrange events and activities. It can be, for example, international seminars, cooking evenings, summer camps or movie nights. The way people feel during meetings is crucial for how included or excluded they are in Active and our activities. This is why it is fundamental to make huge efforts for safe meetings.
The term “Safe meetings” means the absence of bullying, intolerance and hostile attitudes towards a person, a number of people, an opinion etc. It also means the presence of actively lived inclusion, understanding, compassion and people who can identify the needs of their fellows. It means that each individual takes responsibility for the well-being and development of the other people who is part of the meeting.
– assure gender, geographical and socio-economic balance of participants in all its activities and events.
– offer room and time in all its activities for meeting, discussing and together making sense of differences and similarities of all kinds among the different participants to address the societal importance of social inclusion, tolerance and intercultural understanding and how each individual and NGOs can contribute to the promotion of it.
– open activities and events to people from outside.
– whenever arranging events, work deliberate and intentional with social inclusion.
– Active members feel that their membership is meaningful
– Active members can participate in events and activities based on their needs
– All members feel safe and accepted in Active events and activities
– Members with different backgrounds and origins get tasks and responsibilities
– All activities are conducted with an inclusion-perspective
– Active’s organization culture is open, welcoming and supportive of new ideas, approaches and thoughts, so that nobody feels excluded just because s/he thinks or acts differently from the majority
– To create a pool for exchanging knowledge of the leaders working with young people within Active.
– Active members are and feel safe and comfortable during activities
– Active activities strengthen our members’ opinions and lifestyle choices and their personal development
– All leaders in Active events have good understanding for families that do not function and for individuals with special needs and have good skills in how to prevent bullying
Active demands that
– all governments in Europe work with giving all young people the same chance to live their life to their fullest potential and reducing the number of addicted families.
– That the European Union takes a clear decision to work towards social inclusion.
– That the European Union acknowledges all those young people growing up near or with addiction and high risk consumption.
– To arrange seminars or workshops to highlight the challenges society have to work towards social inclusion
– Whenever arranging events, work deliberate and intentional with social inclusion
– all youth activities are conducted with an inclusion-perspective and are open for marginalized and especially vulnerable groups
– youth leaders know how to identify, recognize and help young people with special needs, like children of alcoholics.
– all youth activities have to be free from peer pressure to use substances, instead youth activities should facilitate methods and techniques for young people to step out of their comfort zone with the help of their power within.
– decision-makers on all levels invest more in environments for young people that allow safe meetings free from harmful substances.
– all youth events having EU financial support should guarantee that the money does not go to purchasing alcohol and ensures that alcohol-free environments are created.