On 5 October, representatives of European Equality Bodies met to adopt the new Strategic Plan, the 2023 Workplan and attend to other administrative issues of the Network. They also had the opportunity to discuss the expected legislative proposal on binding standards for equality bodies with European policy makers.
The new strategic plan, voted in unanimously by the whole Network, maintains a broadly similar approach on ‘areas of change’ to previous years, now supported by long-term objectives that are more impact-focused, to further strengthen effectiveness and accountability
Strengthen and support Equality Bodies to achieve equality for all
Act as an expert voice of Equality Bodies in Europe on equality and non-discrimination
Maintain and improve Equinet’s capacity as a strong, resilient, and innovative Network
Also receiving unanimous support, the 2023 work plan has a largely horizontal approach, all the while contributing to grounds-based policy and legislative priorities, particularly at EU level. This is intentional, mirroring the horizontal, multi-ground mandate of many Equality Bodies and the intersectional approach that this enables. 2023 sees a very strong focus on advocating for standards for Equality Bodies and furnishing evidence to EU legislators of the need for strong standards and ways to monitor compliance with them will be a horizontal priority for Equinet. We will continue to build the capacity and expertise of our members, to contribute to the equality agenda in Europe, and to maintain our position as a Research and Knowledge hub on equality issues. Building on our track record of innovation, bringing new equality issues and solutions to the forefront, in 2023 we will continue our focus on the equality implications of Artificial Intelligence, present fresh research on both sanctions and remedies in discrimination cases, as well as exploring the role and potential of Equality Bodies in responding to the equality implications of climate change.
The General Assembly also voted on the the finances from 2021, the minutes of the 2021 Extraordinary General Meeting and Annual General Meeting, as well as a change in Board Elections procedure. In addition, the membership was informed that the Executive Board has a new member, Kalliopi Lykovardi (Deputy Ombudsperson for Equal Treatment, Greek Ombudsman), who has replaced Laurence Bond upon his retirement from the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission.
Besides deciding on governance matters, equality bodies had the opportunity to engage with policy makers from the European Commission and representatives of the current and upcoming Presidencies of the Council of the EU on the upcoming legislative proposal on binding standards for equality bodies, due to be published on 9 November. Commissioner for Equality, Helena Dalli, explained that the new directive aims to enshrine the 2018 Recommendation on the standards for equality bodies into law across the EU. It would address the independence, resources, powers and the mandate of equality bodies, including on promotional work. Silvan Agius, Advisor to her Cabinet, was able to develop these points in more detail in his address, highlighting that the proposed directives ultimately aim to ensure effective protection of equality at the national level.
On behalf of the Czech and Swedish Presidency of the Council of the EU, Erik Adell Hellström, gave an overview of the Trio’s priorities, and ensured that equality was high on their agenda. Equality Bodies were invited to share their experience with national governments, and explain to them why this legislation would be so important. Equinet Chair, Tena Šimonović Einwalter explained, “Publishing the proposals will be a crucial step but, as Commissioner Dalli also pointed out, far from the end of it – we will still need to convince the legislators in the Council and the Parliament to adopt these proposals swiftly and with the strongest possible provisions. This, we have to underline, is in the interest of all people living, studying, working or even just travelling in the EU and this is why we request and highly appreciate the support of the current Czech and upcoming Swedish Presidencies of the Council.”
In follow up discussions, the Equality Bodies representatives exchanged examples of why this legislation is so needed, and different ways in which they could advocate for the quick adoption and implementation of this at national level. The Equinet Secretariat also shared its advocacy strategy in-the-making, which focuses at the European level in particular. The small group discussions allowed us to gather ideas for a forthcoming Members Toolkit to support the advocacy work at national level/
We thank everyone for their contributions and look forward to working toward a more equal Europe for all in 2023.