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The Samaritan Forum 2024: Spotlight on international solidarity and the EU social agenda

Posted on | The Samaritan Forum 2024: Spotlight on international solidarity and the EU social agenda

The 11th International Samaritan Forum took place on 23-24 May 2024, at a crucial time just before the elections of the European Parliament. Hosted by ASB Germany in Cologne, the Forum brought together 80 Samaritans and external guests from 15 European countries. While the main thematic focus if this year’s edition was on social services and social policies, international cooperation and solidarity was a key element in all contributions.

“Social resilience is a main priority for Samaritan International. For us, this resilience includes committed citizens and qualified volunteers, the promotion of social and democratic skills, the implementation of the European Pillar of Social Rights, as well as civil defence and civil protection anchored in civil society”. With this statement, SAM.I. Secretary-General Ivo Bonamico set the tone in his opening address, which resonated throughout the different sessions of the Forum.

Sam.I.-Forum-6330A special guest was Katarina Barley, ASB president and vice-president of the European Parliament, who highlighted the EU’s social ambitions and achievements, but also identified where efforts needs to be increased. Her speech was backed up by the results of a study carried out by the Foundation for European Progressive Studies (FEPS). David Rinaldi presented innovative ideas on how to push the social agenda further and how to ensure that social outcomes are considered across all policy areas.

Sam.I.-Forum-7006The next session featured the honorable guest, Vice-Mayor of the city of Kyiv, Maryna Khonda, who took it upon herself to join the Samaritan Forum despite the currently intensified attacks on her city. She gave a gripping account of the situation and daily life in Kyiv, but also pointed out how the Samaritans of Ukraine (SSU) continue the provision of social services in the face of adversity and the impressive solidarity expressed between Ukrainians, as well as from the international community.

Samaritan International Vice-President and Director of the Latvian Samaritans, Andris Berzins displayed the strong solidarity of the network with the Ukrainian Samaritans, not only through the jointly implemented project at a children’s hospital in Kyiv, but also through their individual contributions to the population in Ukraine, as well as Ukrainians who fled to other European countries.


The afternoon sessions were dedicated to more practical exchanges on innovative practices in various areas of the social service sector, including on social inclusion, work integration for people with disabilities, long-term care, midwife services, hospice services, as well as social service volunteering.



IMG_0443As a milestone in international cooperation, Samaritan International celebrated its 30th anniversary in Cologne. From its founding four member organisations in 1994, the network has been constantly growing and counts today 21 members from 19 European countries. Samaritan International President and Chair of ASB Germany, Knut Fleckenstein highlighted the strength of collaboration: “Only by combining our voices, we have the power to be heard at the European level. As we look to the future, we will continue to advocate for a socially resilient Europe, based on a vibrant civil society and engaged citizens.”

Fotocredit: ASB/Barbara Bechtloff