The “Equally Diverse” project was supported through the Progress Programme of the EU and was implemented in 2012 by the Croatian Office of the Ombudsman in partnership with the Croatian Employment Service and Governmental Office for Human Rights and Rights of National Minorities.
The project had 3 components and the first one involved the election of 5 regionally based NGOs with whom an "agreement on cooperation" was signed and they were formally established as regional antidiscrimination contact points of the Ombudsman. Representatives from these 5 NGOs were then trained not only on antidiscrimination legislation but on specific diversity management concepts so that they become competent in giving relevant information to the employers who are interested in introducing specific equality measures and actions in their working environments.
The second component encompassed the election of 10 companies/employers who underwent a basic antidiscrimination training and for whom internal tools for combating discrimination and promoting equality in different business processes were developed with the professional guidance of HR experts subcontracted through this project. These antidiscrimination tools were developed after a "needs analysis" was done for each of the companies and in cooperation with company representatives, but also with the representatives from NGO contact points who participated at the workshops where these tools were discussed and defined. All of these processes (i.e. election of companies, development of anti-discrimination tools etc.) were described as good practice examples in a brochure developed through this project to serve as a guide for employers in promoting antidiscrimination and equality in the work place. To make these activities more visible to regional actors in the field of work and employment (i.e. employers and organizations of employers as well as state employment services) regional round table discussions were organized by the regional antidiscrimination contact points.
The third component was focused on awareness raising, targeting the public in general and employers as well. Within the framework of the campaign promotional posters were developed and displayed in the means of public transportation across Croatia, as well as web banners (displayed on 2 web portals for employers and potential employees). A TV spot was broadcasted both on the national and private TV channels, and leaflets and various promotional materials specifically targeting employers were distributed.
Finally, in cooperation with the Human Rights Film Festival, a movie was broadcasted, open to the public, and which tackled problems of social crisis, unemployment, and discrimination in the workplace.
The project as a whole was focused on the fight against discrimination in the area of work and working relations. This focus was chosen based on the fact that discrimination is most widespread in these areas. Both statistical data on discrimination complaints received by the Ombudsman’s Office and survey results from the survey conducted to find out what is the perception of the majority of citizens about discrimination occurrences had shown that people experience either discrimination or some kind of ill treatment which they perceive as discrimination, in these areas. This is why giving information on what discrimination is and how it can manifest itself as well as on who are the actors, who have the mandate to fight it, was necessary both in relation to the citizens and the employers.
Employers and labor market agents, on the regional level, were the targeted duty bearers for this project.
The employers and regional labor market actors, as duty bearers, do not have any specific duties under the Antidiscrimination act. However, they have a few general duties (i.e. prescribed to all of the actors to whom the prohibition of discrimination is referring to, namely, all state bodies, bodies of local and regional self-government units, legal persons vested with public authority, legal persons and all natural persons) besides the general duty not to discriminate, which they were not familiar with.
Since respecting these duties can bring about significant improvements in antidiscrimination protection it was important to point these duties out and to inform these actors about them. These duties are to report reasonable suspicion of discrimination to the Ombudsman when one witnesses discrimination and the duty to provide the Ombudsman with all relevant information and documentation about discrimination case/incident when the Ombudsman asks for it.
In addition, employers have other specific duties under the Labour Act concerning protection of workers’ dignity. Namely, employers who have more than 20 employees are obliged to draft and adopt internal regulation that defines salaries, organization of work, procedure and measures for protection of workers’ dignity, measures concerning protection against discrimination as well and to appoint a person responsible for handling complaints in cases when a worker’s dignity is violated. Although this obligation does not arise from the Antidiscrimination Act it is in close connection with the fight against discrimination. If known and respected by the employers, this can become an important tool in creating working environments where employees are better protected against arbitrary conducts of the employer which may sometimes amount to discrimination.
The main objective of the project was to further support the implementation of national legislation on antidiscrimination through promoting antidiscrimination and equal treatment in the field of work and working relations and through enhancing the visibility of the Ombudsman as the central equality body among the wider public, especially on regional and local level.
The last three tool were used because these types of activities are the most suitable ones in terms of the impact they have on the target groups (they have sustainable and long term results), and because their use enables getting feedback from target group representatives participating in the activities, which can then be used as a basis for planning further actions concerning the specific target group.
The most important achievement of this project was introducing the Ombudsman into the regions through the establishment of regional antidiscrimination contact points. Since the Ombudsman does not have regional offices these 5 NGOs - contact points will provide the Ombudsman with relevant information about discrimination occurrences and discrimination cases in their region and serve as a direct link between the Ombudsman and citizens who want to report discrimination.
This is the most valuable achievement since it enables the Ombudsman to stay present in the regions, familiar with local problems and well informed and to continue her/his work with target groups, which altogether broadens the effects and results of the project outside the scope of the project itself.