What are equality bodies? Why do we need them? What challenges do they face? This brochure aims to raise awareness about the role of and challenges faced by equality bodies at national and EU level, but also, on the way they can cooperate and bring added value to the work of stakeholders in their daily work.
The work of Equinet, European network of equality bodies is also outlined. The network promotes equality in Europe by supporting and enabling the work of equality bodies to be independent and effective catalysts for more equal societies.
A useful list of Equinet members and the grounds of discrimination covered per country is also available.
Updated: March 2019
Equality bodies are public institutions set up across Europe to promote equality and tackle discrimination on grounds of gender, race, age, sexual orientation, religion and belief, disability or other grounds. They play a fundamental role in the non-discrimination architecture of the EU.
Their role is defined in accordance with EU equal treatment legislation requiring Member States to set up equality bodies to combat discrimination based on race and ethnic origin , as well as gender . Many Member States have gone beyond these requirements and ensured that equality bodies can also deal with discrimination based on other grounds.
These bodies have a distinct role from national governments and civil society organisations. They promote equality and ensure that equal treatment legislation is applied by:
Equality bodies are at the heart of the national infrastructure for equality, cooperating with all relevant equality stakeholders. They are authoritative voices in matters of equality and non-discrimination. As a first point of contact for victims of discrimination, they have an extensive understanding of how discrimination affects people in Europe and they can provide reliable “on the ground” information about the existing challenges.
Equality bodies and other equality stakeholders have been working in an increasingly challenging environment where social consensus on the value of equality is being challenged and discriminatory statements, policies and actions that are illegal and have been unacceptable are being normalised. Equality bodies have a crucial role and responsibility to remind Member States, institutions and all Europeans that equality and non-discrimination are fundamental European values and, ultimately, hold to account violators of equality legislation.
EU Directives remain limited to providing for the establishment of equality bodies and vesting them with a minimum set of functions. However, this broad framework has led to very diverse levels of protection against discrimination across Member States.
To fulfill their potential and maximise their impact, standards on the independence, effectiveness, functions and powers of equality bodies have been recommended by the European Commission and the Council of Europe. The effective implementation and monitoring of these standards at European and Member State level will be one of our common challenges for the coming years.
Equinet provides a first point of contact at the European level for information relating to equality bodies. We facilitate engagement with equality bodies across Europe and provide relevant information about their experience with various equality and non-discrimination topics.
We can do this because Equinet is the unique platform of equality bodies in Europe, with 49 member organisations from 36 countries (including all EU Member States). The Network is co-funded by the European Commission and Equinet’s member organisations.