Equinet in 2021Ensuring that equality and non-discrimination remain on the agenda. 2021 will be a pivotal year for Equinet and equality in Europe, as the region strives to rebuild its societies in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. For many of us, 2020 was a difficult year with many challenges that transformed the socio-political landscape in Europe. From the effects of the virus and the measures employed to combat it, to the widespread anti-racism protests stemming from George Floyd’s murder by police in the US, the imperative to uphold the principle of equality and non-discrimination has rarely been clearer. Equinet addressed these concerns in its 2020 Recommendation, urging national and regional policymakers to approach the pandemic as an opportunity to rebuild fair, equal, and resilient societies by making sure that no one is left behind. During 2021, Equinet will build on this Recommendation and continue to pursue its work on values-based messaging to promote the appreciation of equality and diversity as core values in Europe. We will share the knowledge and learning from the work of equality bodies extensively with leaders and decisionmakers to ensure that equality is an intrinsic part of the response to the current crises in Europe.
In 2021, several Equinet activities will focus on combatting structural and systemic discrimination at the national and regional levels by building on the experience and expertise of equality bodies. Equinet will create a multi-annual cluster of equality bodies focusing on equality mainstreaming to inform and generate discussions with, and action by, stakeholders at the EU and Member State level. The Network will also bring equality bodies together to work on the use of positive action measures as ways to achieve full equality in practice and fight structural and systemic discrimination at the national level. Furthermore, given the global outcry against the racism prevalent in our societies, Equinet will develop a report and organise a conference on tackling institutional racism with the aim of critically reflecting on the role and capacities of equality bodies to confront and dismantle institutional racism in Europe.
Innovation is at the heart of equality bodies’ work as they use their special status to be centres of excellence on equality issues. One innovative activity Equinet has planned for 2021 involves working on the relatively under-researched area of access to healthcare through the perspective of considering how equality bodies can assist victims of discrimination in this field. Another new topic for Equinet in 2021 will be exploring how equality bodies can engage with authorities at the local level, such as municipalities and cities across Europe, to promote better equality policies and practices. In 2021, Equinet will also examine how the expansion of the list of protected grounds, in particular through the inclusion of health status and socio-economic status, could enhance the effectiveness of the European anti-discrimination legal framework and its implementation.
2021 will mark the third year of Equinet’s Project on Standards for Equality Bodies, which focuses on how to support the implementation of the standards for equality bodies developed by the European Commission in its 2018 Recommendation, and those provided in the revised General Policy Recommendation No. 2 produced by the European Commission Against Racism and Intolerance of the Council of Europe in 2017. These standards are one of the most positive developments for equality bodies in recent years and their proper implementation will help national equality bodies reach their full potential as champions of equality in Europe.
It is significant that many of the activities in this workplan are classed as horizontal issues. To work towards an equal Europe, we need to make sure discriminated groups are not considered mutually exclusive. As equality bodies can have diverse mandates, covering different grounds, it is important to take into account the ways they intersect in order to support policy and legal improvements suited for the specific needs of groups victims of multiple, intersecting grounds of discrimination. Therefore, in 2021, although this Workplan has adopted a ground-based approach, Equinet will continue to apply the lens of intersectionality throughout its work. Moreover, in this Workplan, each Equinet activity is linked to its respective UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), underlining our commitment to work to assist equality bodies’ work on SDGs and strengthen their capacity in leading European countries towards achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. As we embark upon this vital period of rebuilding our societies, we continue to make central, through strengthened cooperation, the values we hold dear as a Network – respect, equality and justice. Together we can achieve equality for all.