Description of project goals:
"Improving equality data collection in Belgium” (IEDCB) is a Belgian project co-funded by the Rights, Equality and Citizenship (REC) programme of the Directorate-General for Justice of the European Commission. It was realised thanks to a partnership between Unia and the Equal Opportunities Team of the Federal Public Service for Justice. The project aims to improve the collection and processing of equality data in Belgium. The guidelines on improving the collection and use of equality data, as developed by the European Subgroup on equality data of the High Level Group on Non-discrimination, Equality and Diversity, were used as the main approach to carry out this project.
First and foremost, Unia made an inventory of the existing equality data in Belgium for 3 groups of discrimination grounds. This inventory was compiled thanks to input from civil society organisations and public institutions and through our own proactive research. The second result is an online data hub that centralises equality data sources to make data more accessible and transparent. This online data hub is freely accessible and makes it possible to easily search data sources according to different criteria and domains.
Together with this online data hub, Unia published a report with insights and recommendations on the collection and processing of equality data. The report exposes several gaps in the Belgian equality data. This report and the data hub were also the subject of a closing conference in June 2021.
Description of methods:
This project takes a participatory approach. As such, we aimed at implementing a human rights-based approach to data throughout our project.
First of all, we established advisory committees with actors from public institutions, civil society, and academia. The advisory committees guided the whole process and gave input for the mapping, the report, and the online data hub through meetings. Next, we distributed a survey on Belgian equality data very widely to involve as many actors as possible in our project. They shared relevant information about equality data with us. And lastly, we conducted in-depth interviews with experts on equality data. We used the collected information to do the mapping and write the report with recommendations.
Equal Opportunities Team of the Belgian Federal Public Service for Justice
European Union funding
We have encountered some challenges and formulated some recommendations and ways forward.
During this project, a significant challenge that we encountered, was the lack of knowledge about the legal framework on personal data. There is a lot of misconception about what one can do with personal data. The GDPR is not well known. Through the participative approach in our project, we were able to raise awareness about not only the importance of equality data but also the possibilities within this legal framework. However, there is more work to do. One way to raise awareness is through participation and the further development of a human rights-based approach to data.
Second, the creation of the data hub was a lot of work. We had to adapt the mapping tool, developed by the Subgroup, to the Belgian context. But this is only the beginning of the work. Measuring inequality is essential but not sufficient. Now that the data sources are centralized, one must use them and put them into action. Creating the data hub made clear that a lot of helpful data already exist and that collecting equality data is possible - but that they are not easy to find and are not enough used. Therefore, we call upon public institutions to make their data accessible and use it. Moreover, we will have to keep the data hub up to date with newly published sources. And an important next step, would be to expand the datahub to include equality data for additional discrimination grounds. For example, data sources on disability are an important gap in the current data hub. Due to a limited timeframe, we have restricted our mapping to specific discrimination grounds.
Lastly, we recommend the establishment of a consultative body on equality data in Belgium that can develop a coordinated approach to the collection and processing of equality data. This consultative body can develop a human rights-based approach to data in Belgium, with particular attention to participation and intersectionality in data collection.