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Home >> News >> Equality Bodies >> Austria: Celebrating 27 years of the Ombud for Equal Treatment

Austria: Celebrating 27 years of the Ombud for Equal Treatment

April 19th 2018

The Austrian Ombud for Equal Treatment celebrates its 27th year in 2018, which also marks the 15th anniversary of the implementation of European legislation on the setting up of equality bodies.
This symposium aimed to address some of the hot topics in the context of anti-discrimination law and equality bodies, as well as celebrate the retirement of the outgoing Ombud, Ingrid Nikolay-Leitner.

Participants at the Symposium
Participants at the Symposium

Overview

2018 marks the 15th anniversary of the implementation of Art 13 of the 2000/43/EG Directive as a crucial marker for the development of equality bodies. The Austrian Ombud for Equal Treatment, which was founded as early as 1991, has been dealing with gender issues at the workplace since its establishment. The Austrian Ombud took over the obligations stipulated in the Directive and evolved as an equality body handling six protected grounds in the scope of work environment and access to goods and services.

Ingrid Nikolay-Leitner, who almost by herself started to establish, develop and promote the Austrian Ombud for Equal Treatment in 1991, was also a founding member of EQUINET – the network for equality bodies. She will retire in May 2018. She will be replaced by Equinet Board member, Sandra Konstatzky.

Ingrid Nikolay-Leitner and Sandra Konstatzky
Ingrid Nikolay-Leitner and Sandra Konstatzky

Highlights of the Day

Commissioner Věra Jourová’s video welcome focused on the important role of equality bodies: "Equality bodies have proven to be a valuable and powerful tool in fighting inequalities and discrimination. The EU can legitimately be proud of introducing the requirement for setting up equality bodies." She also highlighted the importance of independent and effective equality bodies for more inclusive societies throughout Europe. "They need to have the right resources to make sure that our rights to equality are applied on the ground and made accessible to all. That is why the EU is keen on promoting minimum standards for equality bodies across Europe."

See more on the EC Roadmap and Consultation on minimum standards for equality bodies.

Věra Jourová on Standards for Equality Bodies
Věra Jourová on Standards for Equality Bodies


Overview of Standards - PDF
Overview of Standards - PDF

Equinet Executive Director Anne Gaspard gave an introduction to standards for equality bodies, as an ’Equinet success story’. At a time of wide-ranging challenges faced by equality bodies and when ambitions for equality and non-discrimination are being sorely tested across Europe, this potential of equality bodies needs to be protected and advanced by stronger European and international standards. EU Directives which require the establishment of equality bodies only set very minimum standards. While requiring equality bodies to fulfil their mandate independently, they do not guarantee complete independence, nor effectiveness, sufficient powers or adequate resources for equality bodies.

Considering the experience of various equality bodies over the last decade, Equinet considers that the implementation of more detailed and ambitious standards are needed – through future EU action and an effective implementation of other key instruments such as the revised ECRI General Policy Recommendation on equality bodies - to support the work of independent and effective equality bodies, empowered to fulfil their potential to a scale that can achieve real impact.

The Equinet Working paper on Developing Standards for Equality Bodies(2016) identifies core areas that standards would need to focus on, including:

  • Issues of mandate – in relation to scope and grounds;
  • of independence – for instance on management of staff and financial resources, and absence of external pressure and undue influence;
  • and effectiveness – including adequate financial, staff and physical resources and adequate powers and duties;
  • of institutional architecture – whereby equality bodies must be appropriately located within pathways for individuals to access justice in cases of discrimination within the wider infrastructure

See the presentation here.

Anne Gaspard presenting Standards for Equality Bodies
Anne Gaspard presenting Standards for Equality Bodies


Other important speakers on the day included:

  • Christa Tobler (Professor of European Law at the Universities of Basel and Leiden) on ’Sex Discrimination – a Starting Point for Anti-discrimination Law’
  • Daniela Bankier (Head in the Directorate General Justice and Consumers, European Commisison) with a response on Sex Discrimination, ’Towards Equality or Non-discrimination?’
  • Silvia Ulrich (Professor of Law, Head of the Department of Legal Gender Studies at the University of Linz) on ’ECRI-Standards: A Benchmark for Austrian Equality Bodies’ - Read more about the ECRI Standards here
  • Colm O’Cinneide (Professor of Law, University College London) on ’Human Rights and Equality: What are the different Aspirations and Mandates?’
  • Niall Crowley, Equality and diversity specialist, former Head of the Equality Authority of Ireland on ’The need for values-led Equality Bodies’

The day finished with a Ceremony on the occasion of the retirement of Ingrid Nikolay-Leitner, Director of the Austrian Ombud for Equal Treatment, including accolades from Alexander Wrabetz, Director General ORF, Anna Sporrer, Vice-President of the Supreme Administrative Court, and Sandra Konstatzky, Deputy Director of the Austrian Ombud for Equal Treatment.

P.Polák, T.Kádár, S.Konstatzky, I.Nikolay-Leitner, N.Crowley, A.Gaspard
P.Polák, T.Kádár, S.Konstatzky, I.Nikolay-Leitner, N.Crowley, A.Gaspard