Who to Follow in 2024 - Youth, Employment, and Social Affairs

This section of the list highlights accomplished individuals in the realm of social advocacy and youth and employment policy implementation across Europe. From directing major NGOs dedicated to combating homelessness and housing exclusion to advocating for better youth policies within the European Union, these professionals have demonstrated unwavering commitment to addressing pressing social issues. Return to the main list here.

Oliver Röpke - President of the European Economic and Social Committee

Oliver Röpke, elected as the President of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) in April 2023, brings over a decade of dedicated service to the forefront of European economic and social policy. His tenure with the EESC spans back to 2009, during which he has held pivotal roles, including President of the EESC Workers' Group and membership in the EESC Bureau. With a strong focus on employment, social policy, the single market, and innovation, he has been instrumental in shaping resolutions and opinions crucial to the European Union's socio-economic landscape. Prior to his esteemed position at the EESC, and led the Brussels office of the Austrian Trade Union Federation (ÖGB), serving as a key representative to EU institutions and the Executive Committee of the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC). With a career marked by advocacy for workers' rights, social dialogue, and the advancement of internal markets, Oliver Röpke continues to be a driving force in shaping inclusive policies that resonate across European societies.

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Jan Willem Goudriaan - General Secretary at EPSU

Jan Willem's journey in the realm of public services trade unions began in 1989 with the Dutch union AbvaKabo-FNV, marking the inception of a career dedicated to advocating for workers' rights and welfare. Transitioning to EPSU in November 1992, he served as the organization's Deputy General Secretary for an impressive seventeen years until assuming his current leadership role. His influence extends beyond the confines of EPSU; he holds membership in the Executive Committee of the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) and the executive board of Public Services International, underscoring his commitment to global solidarity and collaboration among public services unions. Throughout his tenure, Goudriaan has demonstrated unwavering dedication to advancing the interests of public service workers and fostering dialogue on key issues shaping the labor landscape in Europe and beyond.

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María Rodríguez Alcázar - President at the European Youth Forum

María Rodríguez Alcázar has been a stalwart advocate for human rights since her early teens, when she embarked on her journey as an activist with the secondary school union in her native Spain. Over the years, she has continued to champion the rights and interests of young people, assuming various leadership roles, including Vice President of the Spanish Youth Council (CJE). Currently pursuing her PhD at Ghent University and the United Nations University Institute on Comparative Regional Integration Studies. Within the European Youth Forum, she spearheads initiatives focused on the social and economic inclusion of young people, playing a pivotal role in external representation and advocacy efforts directed at EU institutions, the Council of Europe, and the United Nations.
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Thomas Bignal - Secretary General ay EASPD (European Association of Service Providers for Persons with Disabilities)

As Secretary General at EASPD Thomas is committed to building a more inclusive Europe. With a background in Politics, International Relations, and International Law, he brings expertise in the social services ecosystem, particularly its EU dimension. Recognized by Forbes Magazine in the "30 Under 30" list for promising professionals in European policy in 2016, Thomas has held various roles within EASPD, from Policy Assistant to Head of Policy, and has also directed the Federation of European Social Employers, where he successfully expanded membership and enhanced the organization's visibility and impact at both national and EU levels. In his role he focuses on driving human rights-based and person-centred approaches and policies, and helping members make practical progress on the transformation of services.

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Marine Uldry - Human Rights Policy Coordinator at European Disability Forum

In her role at EDF, Marine works on human rights issues affecting persons with disabilities' rights and contributes to advocacy efforts directed at the European Union, Council of Europe, and United Nations. With over six years of experience in human rights within UN, intergovernmental, and civil society settings at both European and international levels, Marine is deeply passionate about human rights, gender equality, justice, and international affairs. She holds an MA in European Law and an LL.M in International Laws.

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Freek Spinnewijn - Director at FEANTSA

FEANTSA works extensively on addressing homelessness and housing exclusion issues across Europe. Prior to his current role at FEANTSA, Freek served as the Director at the European federation of seniors' organisations (EPSO), representing the interests of older people at the EU level. in his current role he is deeply involved in advocacy, campaigning, research, training, awareness-raising, and transnational exchanges. Additionally, Freek serves as a Member of the Board at the European Anti Poverty Network (EAPN) since 2012, contributing to efforts aimed at combating poverty and social exclusion.

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