1. INTRODUCTION – BACKGROUND
1.1. Programme/Legal base
This Call for Proposals is published under the Regulation (EU) No 1381/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 December 2013 establishing a Rights, Equality and Citizenship Programme for the period 2014 to 2020 ('REC Programme')1.
The annual work programme for 20202 was published on 05/11/2019.
1.2. Policy and economic background
According to the European Union Statistics on Income and Living Conditions - EU SILC 2017 survey, in total 24.5% of the EU population is living with a disability. The share of women with disabilities in the overall population is higher than the share of men (26.7% vs 22.1%)3. These numbers are set to rise as the EU population grows progressively older. Many people with disabilities are too often prevented from fully participating in society and in the economy because of physical or other types of barriers, and because of discrimination.
Furthermore, the EU and its Member States must deal with a range of long-term trends, such as digitalisation, green economy and demographic change, which affect strongly the employment and social situation of persons with disabilities. In addition, while all Member States were showing signs of recovery from the economic and financial crisis of the last decade and unemployment figures were steadily improving, the recovery did still not equally reach all parts of the economy and the society. It is put at stake again today because of the COVID-19 crisis and its economic and social consequences. The previous crisis and the situation that is now appearing have exposed gaps in our social and welfare systems, leaving too many people without work, decent living or adequate protection, particularly persons with disabilities.
The EU is party to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD). This treaty entered into force for the EU on January 2011. Its purpose is to promote, protect and ensure the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by all persons with disabilities. It concerns all areas of life such as education and employment, equality and non-discrimination, accessibility, political participation, independent living, social protection, freedom of movement and many others.
The EU sent its first report to the UN Committee on the Rights of persons with Disabilities in 2014, had a dialogue with the Committee in 2015 and afterwards received Concluding observations from the Committee in 2015. The Commission also reported in 2017 on the progress achieved on the three main recommendations: the withdrawal of the Commission of the EU monitoring Framework, the adoption of the European Accessibility Act and the update of the EU Declaration of Competences under the UNCRPD.
The UNCRPD has guided the content of the European disability strategy 2010-20204 which identifies actions at EU level to complement and support national efforts in eight priority areas: (1) Accessibility, (2) Participation, (3) Equality, (4) Employment, (5) Education and Training, (6) Social protection, (7) Health, and (8) External Action. It is underpinned by awareness-raising, financial support, statistics and data collection.
One of the key deliverables of the European Disability Strategy has been the adoption of the European Accessibility Act in April 2019. This new Directive, to be transposed within 3 years of its entry into force, is aiming to improve the functioning of the internal market for accessible products and services by removing barriers created by divergent legislation. It establishes accessibility requirements for a number of key products and services and allows the use of the same requirements to render operational accessibility provisions in other EU acts in particular in the Public Procurement Directives. It should facilitate the work of companies whilst bringing benefits for persons with disabilities and elderly people in the EU.
Another important initiative currently under study is the Pilot Project on the EU Disability Card that was implemented in eight Member States in 2016-2018.
In February 2017 the European Commission published a Progress Report on the implementation of the European Disability Strategy5. It notably included a table monitoring the implementation of the Strategy, a summary of the contributions to the Report (from other EU institutions and from civil society), a comprehensive overview of EU legal acts with an impact on disability matters, and the results of the public consultation on the review of the Strategy. The latter confirmed that despite progress achieved in the eight priority areas of the Strategy, the situation of people with disabilities remains challenging in terms of participation in everyday activities, rights, employment, accessibility, discrimination and mobility within the EU.
Equality for all and equality in all of its senses will be one of the major priorities of the new Commission and of the implementation of the European Pillar of Social Rights (EPSR). The EPSR, jointly proclaimed by the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission on 17 November 2017, reflects the unanimous support by all EU institutions and the Member States on 20 principles and rights essential for fair and well-functioning labour markets and welfare systems. These principles range from inclusion of people with disabilities to equal opportunities, quality and inclusive education, work-life balance, support to children, long-term care or access to essential services. Disability is also mainstreamed in all relevant principles.
The objectives of the Pillar are also coherent with the objectives of the Sustainable Development Goals and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which reflects the commitment of governments to build a better future for all people. The Agenda, aiming among others to end poverty and reduce inequalities, pays attention to the situation of persons with disabilities. It refers to them directly in five of its goals in relation to education, employment, reduction of inequalities, inclusive cities, and on means of implementation. For its follow up, it refers to the collection of data disaggregated on disability.
An evaluation of the European Disability Strategy 2010-2020 is ongoing and the results will feed into the preparation of a follow-up initiative for the period beyond 2020.
1.3. Main Purposes
This call for proposals aims to provide specific operating grants for the year 2021 to European networks having signed a Framework Partnership Agreements 2018-2021 with the European Commission.
The 4-year Framework Partnership Agreements established cooperation between the European Commission and European networks whose statutory aim is to promote and protect the rights of persons with disabilities. The agreements set out the framework conditions governing potential specific operating grants, and include for each partner a 4- year strategic plan. The Framework Partnership Agreements were signed in 2017 following the call for proposals VP/2017/014.
The specific operating grants will enhance the capacities of the networks to contribute actively to the development and implementation of all relevant policies. The grants will fund operating costs and those activities of the networks which have EU added value and which contribute to the implementation of the objectives of the REC Programme for the year 2021.
2. OBJECTIVE(S) – PRIORITIES – TYPES OF ACTIONS - EXPECTED RESULTS
2.1. Objectives – Priorities
The objective of the Call is to promote, protect and monitor the rights of persons with disabilities, to ensure that people with disabilities can fully enjoy their rights.
More specifically, the activities of the applicant should contribute to one or more of the following priorities:
supporting the implementation of the priorities of the European Disability Strategy 2010-2020 (or follow-up initiative), taking into account both the Progress Report on its implementation and the main results of the public consultation as mentioned above;
contributing to the reflection on the post-2020 European disability strategic framework;
contributing to the EU Disability Card action and its promotion.
contributing to the implementation of the UNCRPD and promoting the involvement
of the national member organisations in the implementation;
supporting the human rights model of disability, including in disability assessment and determination as well as in social protection matters;
contributing to awareness-raising activities that would be launched by the Commission in the disability area;
supporting and contributing to implement the UN Concluding Observations of the report on the implementation of the UNCRPD by the EU and to prepare the next reporting exercise;
supporting the development, implementation and monitoring of EU and national policies and legislation in the area of disability, including the development of statistical data;
contributing to mainstreaming different aspects of disability matters in EU and national policies and legislation, particularly in the areas of accessibility, employment, education, social inclusion (including housing, homelessness, migration, child poverty), social protection, health (including mental health), human rights, international cooperation and development to make sure that the rights and needs of persons with disabilities are properly addressed;
supporting the implementation of the European Pillar of Social Rights, in particular the principle 17 on disability, and mainstreaming disability in all its relevant areas;
contributing to improving the accessibility of products and services, including by supporting the implementation of the European Accessibility Act and other EU accessibility legislation as well as with awareness-raising activities about these new legislations;
supporting the achievement of the Sustainable Developments Goals (SDGs) of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, notably those with a direct impact for people with disabilities;
supporting the main EU driven processes such as the European Semester in the disability area;
supporting and contributing to EU youth initiatives targeted at young people, including those with disabilities, to encourage inclusive education and training, access to employment, participation and independent living, and including initiatives such as the European Solidarity Corps;
Applicants are also expected to contribute to a number of specific initiatives where their role has a clear added value, such as:
the annual Work Forum on the implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in the EU and the Member States;
the European Commission Conference on the European Day of Persons with Disabilities;
the Access City Award, the European Prize for making cities more accessible to people with disabilities and older people;
The proposed work programme for 2021 should be in line and have a clear link with the quadrennial strategic plan and budget forecast agreed with the European Commission in the framework partnership agreements. The proposed work programme can develop further the 4-year work programme and describe its implementation in more details, but should not contradict it.
Minor adaptations due to changes in the overall context (i.e. COVID-19 crisis) or unforeseeable new organisational developments are possible and should be marked.
Deviations (e.g. modification or suppression of an activity foreseen in the 4-year strategic plan) should be clearly explained and justified in the annex “Description of the action and work programme” under “Additional information”. This is important to assess the consistency with the 4-year strategic plan and the scope of any change proposed.
2.2. Description of the activities to be funded / Type of activities
Applicants are expected to focus particularly on the following areas of activity:
supporting the European Commission in implementing the above-mentioned priorities by providing analysis and data for critical or emerging issues, especially those where there is a knowledge-gap;
providing input to European Commission's Public Consultations and drafting position papers in relevant EU policy areas.
supporting national member organisations in their involvement in the implementation, at national level, of main political EU driven processes;
equipping member organisations with the necessary skills and competences to promote the interests and rights of people with disabilities, in particular to enhance equality of opportunities for people with disabilities, namely in employment, and combat discrimination on the basis of disability;
The types of activities which may be funded under this call for proposals include:
analytical activities, such as the collection of data and statistics; the development of common methodologies and, where appropriate, indicators or benchmarks; studies, researches, analyses and surveys; evaluations; the elaboration and publication of guides, reports and educational material; workshops, seminars, experts' meetings and conferences;
training activities, such as staff exchanges, workshops, seminars, train-the-trainer events and the development of online training tools or other training modules;
mutual learning, cooperation, awareness-raising and dissemination activities, such as the identification of, and exchanges concerning, good practices, innovative approaches and experiences; the organisation of peer reviews and mutual learning; the organisation of conferences, seminars, media campaigns, including in the online media, information campaigns, including institutional communication on the political priorities of the Union as far as they relate to the objectives of the Programme; the compilation and publication of materials to disseminate information about the Programme and its results; the development, operation and maintenance of systems and tools using information and communication technologies;
management activities to support the operations of the network as well as capacity building for its members.
In order to ensure an inclusive perspective, beneficiaries shall encourage the participation of relevant target groups in actions financed by the Programme, and in particular of people with disabilities, their families and representative organisations.
2.3. Expected outputs/results
The European Commission supports an output-oriented approach, looking at the quality, relevance and sustainability of the results reached. The work programme should therefore clearly demonstrate the organisation's potential and capacity to generate concrete impacts in the objectives and priorities defined in 2.1.
Applicants are invited to:
provide a clear description of the methodology, main outputs and their expected contribution to European policy development in the thematic areas of this call, as well as to demonstrate the added value of their activities;
describe their monitoring system and the way in which they use monitoring and external evaluations in order to assess, on the one hand, their overall performance and, on the other hand, the relevance and impact of their outputs.
The documents, information, websites, meetings and other events organised in the framework of the work programme are expected to be accessible, and reasonable accommodation should be provided.
a) Publication of the call
b) Deadline for questions and requests for clarification
c) Deadline for submitting proposals
Swim, Courier and Post : 24:00 Brussels' time (CET)
Hand deliveries 16:00 Brussels' time (CET)
d) Evaluation period (indicative)
e) Information to applicants (indicative)
f) Signature of the specific grant agreements (indicative)
g) Starting date of the action
01 January 2021
3.1. Starting date and duration of the projects
The actual starting date of the action will be the starting date of the applicant's budgetary financial year.
No expenditure can be incurred before the start of the beneficiary's budgetary year for operating grants. Any expenditure incurred before the signature of the Specific Grant Agreement (SGA) may be considered eligible but it will be at the applicant’s risk.
The duration of the work programme to be covered by the 2021 operating grant should coincide with the budgetary (financial) year of the applicant (12 months).
4. AVAILABLE BUDGET AND CO-FINANCING RATE 4.1. Available Budget and Grant Amounts
The total budget earmarked for the EU co-financing of projects under this call is estimated at € 3,100,000.00 EUR.
The Commission reserves the right not to distribute all the funds available.
The Commission reserves the right to increase the amount of the funds, if available, and distribute them to proposals admitted in the possible reserve list. This top-up is limited to 20% of the initial budget of the call.
Under this call for proposals, the EU grant may not exceed 80 % of the total eligible costs of the action. The applicants must guarantee their co-financing of the remaining amount covered by the applicants' own resources or from sources other than the European Union budget8.
5. ADMISSIBILITY REQUIREMENTS
Applications must be sent no later than the deadline for submission referred to in section 3(c)
Failure to comply with the above requirements may lead to the rejection of the application.
Applicants are encouraged to submit their project proposal in English in order to facilitate the treatment of the proposals and speed up the evaluation process. It should be noted, however, that proposals submitted in any other of the official languages of the EU will be accepted. In this case, applications should be accompanied by an executive summary in English (see checklist point 3).
6. ELIGIBILITY CRITERIA
Please be aware that eligibility criteria must be complied with for the entire duration of the grant.
For British Applicants: Please be aware that following the entry into force of the EU-UK Withdrawal Agreement9 on 1 February 2020 and in particular Articles 127(6)10, 13711 and 13812, the references to natural or legal persons residing or established in a Member State of the European Union are to be understood as including natural or legal persons residing or established in the United Kingdom. UK residents and entities are therefore eligible to participate under this call.13
6.1. Eligibility of the applicants14
Proposals can only be submitted by organisations having signed a Framework Partnership Agreement with the European Commission following the 2017 Call for Proposals establishing four-year Framework Partnership Agreements for the period 2018-202115.
Please note that:
- Proposals may not involve consortia;
- Affiliated entities to the applicant are NOT eligible to receive funding under this call for proposals
6.2. Eligible activities
a) Geographical Location
To be eligible, actions must be fully carried out in eligible participating REC countries:
EU Member State;
Iceland and Liechtenstein;
Serbia (an Agreement between the European Union and Serbia on the participation
of Serbia in the REC programme was signed on 16.07.2018).
Activities taking place in other countries are therefore not eligible in this Call for proposals. However, where the Beneficiary can adequately justify that the participation in such activities is fundamental for the implementation of its annual work programme and maximise its European added value, and where they contribute to achieving the objectives of the funding programme, related costs could be accepted as eligible provided that they are originated in a REC programme country, and subject to prior explicit approval by the Commission.
b) Types of activities
The grant will finance inter alia the activities indicated in section 2.2.
c) Core activities
The following activities are considered core activities and may not be subcontracted:
management of the work Programme
6.3. Ineligible activities
The following types of activities are not eligible for EU funding:
financial support to third parties as defined in point 3 of the Financial Guidelines
membership fees to other networks supported by EU grants;
sponsorships/scholarships to individuals for their participation in workshops, seminars, conferences, congresses, training courses etc. (i.e. fees to attend an event) ;
activities supporting political parties;
legal actions before national or international courts regardless of their grounds or
Volunteers’ work is accepted as an activity but volunteers’ costs in the meaning of art 181(8) and 190 (2) of the Financial Regulation are not eligible for reimbursement.
7. EXCLUSION CRITERIA
Applicant must sign a declaration on their honour signed in their name, certifying that they are not in one of the situations referred to in article 136 and 141of the Financial Regulation concerning exclusion and rejection from the procedure respectively, using the relevant form attached to the application form available at: https://webgate.ec.europa.eu/swim/external/displayWelcome.do.
The authorising officer shall exclude an applicant from participating in call for proposals procedures where:
(a) the applicant is bankrupt, subject to insolvency or winding-up procedures, its assets are being administered by a liquidator or by a court, it is in an arrangement with creditors, its business activities are suspended, or it is in any analogous situation arising from a similar procedure provided for under EU or national laws or regulations;
(b) it has been established by a final judgment or a final administrative decision that the applicant is in breach of its obligations relating to the payment of taxes or social security contributions in accordance with the applicable law;
(c) it has been established by a final judgment or a final administrative decision that the applicant is guilty of grave professional misconduct by having violated applicable laws or regulations or ethical standards of the profession to which the applicant belongs, or by having engaged in any wrongful intent or gross negligence, including, in particular, any of the following:
(i) fraudulently or negligently misrepresenting information required for the verification of the absence of grounds for exclusion or the fulfilment of eligibility or selection criteria or in the performance of a contract, a grant agreement or a grant decision;
(ii) entering into agreement with other applicants with the aim of distorting competition;
(iii) violating intellectual property rights;
(iv) attempting to influence the decision-making process of the Commission during the award procedure;
(v) attempting to obtain confidential information that may confer upon it undue advantages in the award procedure;
(d) it has been established by a final judgment that the applicant is guilty of any of the following:
(i) fraud, within the meaning of Article 3 of Directive (EU) 2017/1371 of the European Parliament and of the Council and Article 1 of the Convention on the protection of the European Communities' financial interests, drawn up by the Council Act of 26 July 1995;
(ii) corruption, as defined in Article 4(2) of Directive (EU) 2017/1371 or Article 3 of the Convention on the fight against corruption involving officials of the European Communities or officials of Member States of the European Union, drawn up by the Council Act of 26 May 1997, or conduct referred to in Article 2(1) of Council Framework Decision 2003/568/JHA, or corruption as defined in the applicable law;
(iii) conduct related to a criminal organisation, as referred to in Article 2 of Council Framework Decision 2008/841/JHA;
(iv) money laundering or terrorist financing within the meaning of Article 1(3), (4) and (5) of Directive (EU) 2015/849 of the European Parliament and of the Council;
(v) terrorist offences or offences linked to terrorist activities, as defined in Articles 1 and 3 of Council Framework Decision 2002/475/JHA, respectively, or inciting, aiding, abetting or attempting to commit such offences, as referred to in Article 4 of that Decision;
(vi) child labour or other offences concerning trafficking in human beings as referred to in Article 2 of Directive 2011/36/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council;
(e) the applicant has shown significant deficiencies in complying with main obligations in the performance of a contract, a grant agreement or a grant decision financed by the Union's budget, which has led to its early termination or to the application of liquidated damages or other contractual penalties, or which has been discovered following checks, audits or investigations by an authorising officer, OLAF or the Court of Auditors;
(f) it has been established by a final judgment or final administrative decision that the applicant has committed an irregularity within the meaning of Article 1(2) of Council Regulation (EC, Euratom) No 2988/95;
(g) It has been established by a final judgement or final administrative decision that the applicant has created an entity in a different jurisdiction with the intent to circumvent fiscal, social or any other legal obligations of mandatory application in the jurisdiction of its registered office, central administration or principal place of business;
(h) it has been established by a final judgement or final administrative decision that an entity has been created with the intent referred to in point (g);
for the situations referred to in points (c) to (h) above, the applicant is subject to:
(i) facts established in the context of audits or investigations carried out by European Public Prosecutor's Office after its establishment, the Court of Auditors, the European Anti-Fraud Office or the internal auditor, or any other check, audit or control performed under the responsibility of an authorising officer of an EU institution, of a European office or of an EU agency or body;
(ii)non-final judgments or non-final administrative decisions which may include disciplinary measures taken by the competent supervisory body responsible for the verification of the application of standards of professional ethics;
(iii) facts referred to in decisions of persons or entities being entrusted with EU budget implementation tasks;
(iv) information transmitted by Member States implementing Union funds;
(v)decisions of the Commission relating to the infringement of Union competition law or of a national competent authority relating to the infringement of Union or national competition law; or
(vi) decisions of exclusion by an authorising officer of an EU institution, of a European office or of an EU agency or body.
If an applicant declares one of the situations of exclusion listed above it must indicate the measures it has taken to remedy the exclusion situation, thus demonstrating its reliability. This may include e.g. technical, organisational and personnel measures to correct the conduct and prevent further occurrence, compensation of damage or payment of fines or of any taxes or social security contributions. The relevant documentary evidence, which illustrates the remedial measures taken, must be provided in annex to the declaration. This does not apply for situations referred in point (d) of section 7.1.
7.3. Rejection from the call for proposals
The Commission shall not award a grant to an applicant who:
a. is in an exclusion situation established in accordance with Section 7.1; or
b. has misrepresented the information required as a condition for participating in the procedure or has failed to supply this information; or
c. was previously involved in the preparation of calls for proposals documents used in the award procedure where this entails breach of the principle of equality of treatment, including a distortion of competition that cannot be remedied otherwise.
Administrative sanctions may be imposed on applicants, or affiliated entities where applicable, who are guilty of misrepresentation, if any of the declarations or information provided as a condition for participating in this procedure prove to be false.