Equality, together with respect for human dignity and for human rights, non-discrimination, tolerance, and gender equality, is a founding value of the European Union. One of the six substantive chapters of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU is dedicated to equality. The Union has legislative powers to advance equality and non-discrimination and these values are powerfully expressed in EU equality legislation and most recently in the European Pillar of Social Rights. Importantly, the EU is currently devising its new Multi-Annual Financial Framework (MFF), defining its budget for the next decade.
Equality and non-discrimination are also at the core of the international human rights framework. Freedom from discrimination is the only right set out in all nine of the core UN human rights treaties. Similarly, non-discrimination is a horizontal requirement in the Council of Europe’s treaties.
Unfortunately, the reality on the ground does not fulfil the aspirations and guarantees of these international treaties. In fact, levels of inequality, intolerance and discrimination are on the rise amidst a populist discourse that is often hostile to these fundamental values and challenges these values and their supporters as expressions of disingenuous political correctness. This is despite the fact that equality and non-discrimination are part of the declared constitutional traditions of most, if not all, countries.
Equality bodies are statutory institutions set up pursuant to the EU’s Race Directive in all EU Member States to promote equality and combat discrimination. They are part and parcel of the national infrastructure for equality, together with strong civil society. Equality bodies have a demonstrated potential in triggering positive change at societal, institutional and individual levels, but only if they are vested with independence, adequate powers and resources. This is unfortunately not the case in all European countries.
Chair: Sandra Konstatzky, Austrian Ombud for Equal Treatment and Equinet Board member
Chair: Tena Šimonović Einwalter, Chair of the Equinet Executive Board and Deputy Ombudswoman of Croatia
|Conference on Investing in Equality, 1 June 2018