In 2019, equality bodies were at the forefront of important initiatives to ensure that Europe lives up to its fundamental founding values of equality, rights and democracy, as well as promoting the key values of our societies. Our Equinet Highlights 2019 summarises the most important ones, including the following.
Given that Goal 10 of the Sustainable Development Goals was under review at the UN High Political Forum last summer, Equinet promoted the importance of equality and non-discrimination as central to ensure that no one is left behind throughout the year. We stressed the key contribution that equality bodies can make by providing policy advice on equality issues within Agenda 2030 or contributing to enhance the collection of equality data, for example. At the international level, equality bodies were promoted as a European good practice example.
Equality bodies played an important role in combatting discrimination and hate speech in election campaigns last year. Based on the Equinet Recommendation that was prepared ahead of European Parliament elections, national equality bodies translated the Recommendation into their respective languages, and used it to engage with electoral commissions, political parties at local and national level, as well as media and audiovisual authorities around the issues of non-discrimination and hate speech.
Both the European Commission and the Council of Europe’s European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) published standards for equality bodies in 2018 in order to ensure a wide mandate for and the independence and effectiveness of national equality bodies. The effective implementation of these standards is crucial to enable equality bodies to fulfill their potential. Equinet members have developed indicators on the mandate and functions of equality bodies to monitor the effective implementation of these standards. Furthermore, Equinet fed into the work of the European Commission and the Council of the EU around standards to give concrete examples of what effective implementation actually means in practice.
The important role of equality bodies tackling sexual harassment in the workplace was also highlighted. They are in a position to offer legal support to people who experience sexual harassment, issue recommendations & offer training to businesses on how to combat sexual harassment in the workplace, as well as raising awareness about this issue more generally.
Equinet also worked on building the capacity of members as regards narrative building and story telling, as well as developing links to organisations representing older people and how to tackle ageism more generally, though our joint seminar with AGE-Platform Europe.
Amongst the highlights at national level, there were some excellent initiatives from across Europe. In Finland, thanks to the continued engagement of the equality body there, fertility treatment for same-sex couples finally became a possibility. Career guidance sessions tackling gender segregation in education and employment were developed in Malta. Our Greek member managed to ensure that substitute teachers have a legal right to maternity benefits, while racial harassment in British universities was investigated by our member in Great Britain. A number of successful awareness-raising initiatives reaching out to young people were developed in Belgium, the Czech Republic and Estonia. Finally, people with disabilities were supported in making education more accessible to them in Slovenia, while in Lithuania, a new monitoring Commission on the UNCRPD was set up.
This year as always, Equinet and equality bodies continue to make a difference to improve the lives of people across Europe. Especially in the current context of Covid-19 and with the Black Lives Matter movement particularly amplified, we continue to work toward a Europe where equality is a reality for everyone, diversity is valued, and all forms of discrimination have been eliminated.