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Conference on Poverty and Discrimination: Two sides of the same coin

March 28th 2018

Equinet and the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC) co-organised a conference on poverty and discrimination. This conference aimed to review the links between poverty and discrimination, take stock of recent initiatives introducing socio-economic status as a discrimination ground and discuss what can be done at EU and national levels to break the vicious cycle of social exclusion.

The conference took place in the IHREC offices in Dublin on 22 March 2018. Read our press release here.

Background

Combating poverty is a key undertaking of the European Union in the field of economic and social rights. This is reflected not only in the European Pillar of Social Rights, but also in fighting poverty and social exclusion being one of the five targets of Europe 2020, the EU’s ten-year jobs and growth strategy. Further to this, one of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations is to end poverty in all its forms everywhere.

Equinet’s earlier work on ‘Addressing Poverty and Discrimination: Two Sides of the One Coin’ and ‘Equality Bodies Contributing to the Protection, Respect and Fulfilment of Economic and Social Rights’ demonstrates, based on the experiences of equality bodies, the inextricable link between discrimination and poverty. Most equality bodies have a broad mandate covering discrimination not only in the field of employment but also in fields such as housing, access to education, healthcare and other services where a number of grounds intersect with socio-economic status as a cause of social exclusion. Important intersections include the grounds of race and gender.

There is growing recognition that socio-economic status as a ground of discrimination is an important tool to tackle inequality. Recent years have seen legislative initiatives in a number of European jurisdictions where the anti-discrimination legislation did not historically recognize socio-economic status as a discrimination ground, including France and Ireland.

Objectives

This conference aimed to:

  • Review the mutually reinforcing links between poverty and discrimination.
  • Take stock of recent initiatives introducing socio-economic status as a discrimination ground.
  • Explore the manner in which grounds such as race and gender intersect with poverty to result in aggravated forms of social exclusion.
  • Discuss what can be done at EU and national levels to break the vicious cycle of social exclusion.

Summary

The conference came at a time when the Irish parliament was considering a draft Equality (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2017, proposing to introduce socio-economic status as a discrimination ground. Irish Minister of State for Justice David Stanton reiterated the government’s commitment to combat inequality and acknowledged the need to consider complaints received by the IHREC in reviewing what remains to be done. The high number of complaints received by the IHREC in the field of housing was highlighted, and the Minister emphasized that discriminating against persons who receive housing assistance was already prohibited in Ireland in a legal amendment in 2015.

The conference reviewed the intersection between discrimination and poverty, sharing data on the situation of Roma and how poverty impacts access to healthcare across Europe. We discussed the importance of combatting poverty for compliance with the Social Charter and for meeting the SDGs, and alternative avenues to justice were outlined, such as the collective complaints procedure of the European Committee of Social Rights. We also took stock of learning in Europe and Canada where provisions on poverty as discrimination already exist in equality legislation, discussing how and why the provisions were introduced. Equality bodies’ shared their experiences in using the provision to combat inequality caused by poverty, including the challenges and the need to engage directly with persons experiencing poverty to adequately tackle the discrimination they experience. In our discussions which were wide ranging given the different experiences of those present, participants nevertheless agreed on poverty being both a driver for and a consequence of inequality and discrimination.

Agenda

Agenda
Agenda


Speakers’ Presentations & Documents

OPENING SESSION

SESSION 1 - Poverty and discrimination: a vicious cycle?

Chair: Tena Šimonović Einwalter, Chair of the Equinet Executive Board and Deputy Ombudswoman of Croatia

SESSION 2: Socio-economic status: a ground for discrimination?

Chair: Anne Gaspard, Equinet Executive Director

SESSION 3: Panel debate on Ways Forward

Chair: Tamás Kádár, Equinet Head of Legal and Policy

  • Laurence Bond, Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC)
  • Birgit Van Hout, Regional Representative for Europe, United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (UN OHCHR)
  • Robert Anderson, Eurofound (European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions)
  • Jarna Petman, former member of the European Committee of Social Rights

Photos

Conference on Poverty & Discrimination: Two sides of the same coin, 22 March, Dublin

Further Information

EN - Addressing Poverty and Discrimination: Two Sides of the One Coin (PDF, 378 KB)
EN - Addressing Poverty and Discrimination: Two Sides of the One Coin (PDF, 378 KB)
Contributing to the protection, respect and fulfillment of Economic and Social Rights (2015)
Contributing to the protection, respect and fulfillment of Economic and Social Rights (2015)


You may also be interested in reading An analysis of the introduction socio-economic status as a discrimination ground, concentrating on including socioeconomic status as a ground for discrimination in Irish employment equality and equal status legislation.