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Communications activities under the “Iris Project” (Greece)

September 20th 2012

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Organised by the Greek Ombudsman(GO)
1) Overall context

The Greek Ombudsman’s team of experts handling communication on anti-discrimination issues, while following the institution’s plan for Dec 2010 – Nov. 2011, with activities that have already been drafted in previous years, could not help but notice that, because of the changing socio-economic context, their messages where becoming increasingly irrelevant to their recipients belonging to the general public. Unprecedented economic decline, affecting especially the middle class Greeks, has resulted in resentment to any kind of privileges bestowed to particular people or groups, including the discourse on measures of positive discrimination.

In particular, a version of GO’s anti-discrimination leaflet which was published as a cover of a popular Athenian youth free press edition, attracted some negative public comments such as (a) “this doesn’t do any good to the average suffering Greek” since it advertises services affecting mainly minorities and immigrants (a blogger even dubbed the GO as “the ombudsman of the non-Greek“, and (b) “it was an activity which must have been costly and is unneeded, done by a public institution in a time of austerity” (note: the publication indicated that it was co-funded by the EU).

After evaluating such comments the leadership of the GO, following consultation with the anti-discrimination team, sought to shift the outlook of the institution’s anti-discrimination activities. As regards the printed and
electronic communication material, the emphasis would shift, giving more weight to discrimination issues related to the general population, e.g. starting a text by referring first to pregnant women cases or people with disabilities instead of Roma, immigrants, non Christians etc. Also, as regards consultation with local communities and authorities, the diminishing resources of state assistance (money and people) for social inclusion policies are becoming a prominent topic and the funding factor plays now a more important role in the Ombudsman’s outlook than it did in the past. In that context the Ombudsman is obliged to bind its proposals to the administration for social inclusion activities with logistic and funding solutions, bearing also in mind that such activities should be creating a visible output for the general population as well.

2) Brief description of the campaign

The Iris Project is funded by the EU PROGRESS Programme, managed by the General Directorate for Youth within the Labour Ministry, and benefits from the expertise of the Ombudsman, the Directorate itself and several NGOs specialised on youth. All parties are involved in the implementation of anti-discrimination activities.

In 2010 the Greek Ombudsman was responsible for the production of information materials about the body through youth press, the organisation of public information days on anti-discrimination legislation, the development of communication activities promoting the integration of Roma people and raising awareness of their rights.

3) General objectives of the campaign

Awareness raising and information against discrimination focusing on the mandate of the Greek Ombudsman (GO).

4) Details about the campaign’s activities

Activity 1 - Publication of leaflets on the GO mandate and circulation through youth press:

 (Click to enlarge picture) Creation and publication of leaflets that described the GO competence on discrimination issues, the ways that the institution can mediate in cases falling within its mandate and the procedure of submitting a complaint. A
complaint form was attached, while there was also a provision for containing information on the Braille system.

The leaflet would be available in the Ombudsman offices and on every contact opportunity with the wider public (information field missions, conferences, festivals, etc.). It was also proposed that the dissemination of this material be made through the youth free press in Athens and if possible in other major Greek cities, as well as through publications referring to the groups that are covered by the antidiscrimination legislation.

The target is the provision of information to the wider public on the mandate of the ombudsman as a Specialised Equality Body for the promotion and implementation of the principle of equal treatment in the public sector. Also, to inform targeted audiences on the types of discrimination that are covered by the legislation and the means of remedy with an aim to increase the number of incoming complaints.

Activity 2 - Public information days on anti-discrimination legislation:

Four missions of GO staff in Greek provincial capitals: this activity draws from the long experience and common practice of the GO institution in implementing public information events with the participation of the local
administration, NGOs and local media.

There is also parallel functioning of a citizen’s reception desk where citizens can receive personalized information and can submit their complaints.

This is an effort to decentralize the services offered by the GO, but primarily it aims to inform the local societies on the mandate of the GO and come in closer contact with potential victims of discrimination.

Activity 3 - Roma integration informational guidebook for local authorities:

This refers to the creation and publication of a Guidebook on Issues of Marginalized Roma Populations specifically designed in order to answer questions posed by members of municipal councils and public servants. The aim of this publication is to gather and systematize the obligations of competent authorities on a local level, in order to facilitate the social inclusion of the Roma.

Activity 4 - Integrated interventions on Roma "hot–spots" settlements:

On the spot investigations in problematic settlements of Roma populations around Greece: meetings are held with Roma and local authorities on the current issues creating social frictions. Also, data is being collected and registered on Roma numbers, their housing situation, school attendance and other factors related to their social inclusion, such as local initiatives and possible projects that are being implemented. The collected data on the GO’s Roma issues will be published on a dedicated webpage. The aim of the GO is, on the one hand, to contribute to the solution of critical cases of social exclusion and address them in relation to the implementation of the national action plan for the Roma, while also collecting field data and disseminating them through the GO reports and internet resources.

Activity 5 - Creation of Greek Ombudsman internet resources for Roma integration:

Creation of GO special webpages on Roma issues, dubbed as “Ombudsman for the Roma” and their translation in English. These pages will contain an interactive mapping of the problematic areas, as they are deducted from the 12 years of GO’s case load. This will also be a place of promoting good practice in the field.
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