The Human Dimension Implementation Meeting (HDIM) of OSCE participating States is Europe’s largest annual human rights and democracy conference and takes place from 21 September to 2 October.
The Human Dimension Implementation Meeting (HDIM) is organized every year by the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) as a platform for 57 OSCE participating States, Partners for Co-operation, OSCE structures, civil society, international organizations and other relevant actors to take stock of the implementation of the OSCE human dimension commitments, discuss associated challenges, share good practices and make recommendations for further improvement.
On 29 September, Anne Gaspard, Equinet Exectuvie Director moderated Working Session 12 - Combating hate crimes and ensuring effective protection against discrimination.
In her introduction, she briefly outlined the work of Equinet and equality bodies, highlighting that they act as independent, national implementation bodies translating laws on paper into rights in practice and seeking to make equality real and accessible to victims of discrimination. Some of these human rights defenders are also National Human Rights Institutions, and may deal with hate speech and hate crime, as well as directly with discrimination issues.
She underlined the importance of stakeholder cooperation for Equinet, especially the work with OSCE-ODIHR on this and future occasions.
“Discrimination is a grave violation of human rights affecting all fields and groups in society. In its more severe form, it can serve as a trigger for hate crimes. We have seen a general increase in hate incidents recently, which has been demonstrated in the OSCE’s annual reporting on hate crime. Incidents of racism, institutional or other types of discrimination and racial profiling have been reported to ODIHR, notably by people of African descent, and affect every aspect of life for the communities in the OSCE region. Equal access to education, employment, health care, racial abuse, discriminatory practice such as ethnic profiling and hate crime are all relevant issues. This trend is particularly striking for various ethnic communities, but also increasingly visible on the ground of religion or belief, disability, sexual orientation or gender identity. As stated in the OSCE commitment, we need a comprehensive approach to address hate crime, where (all) work together toward effective data collection, prevention, law enforcement, prosecution and protection of victims.”
On 30 September, Jessica Machacova, Equinet Project Officer, attended Working session 14: Tolerance and non-discrimination II, which included:
In her intervention, Jessica highlighted the importance of the work of equality bodies in promoting tolerance and non-discrimination.
“Key actors in the anti-discrimination architecture of each country, equality bodies are independent public institutions assisting victims of discrimination on the grounds covered by EU equal treatment legislation, namely gender, race/ethnicity, religion or belief, age, disability and sexual orientation. As human rights defenders, they investigate cases of discrimination, monitor and report on discrimination issues, conduct research and raise awareness about equality and non-discrimination. They are also key in implementing EU equal treatment directives.
Nevertheless, equality bodies face important challenges undermining their capacity to address racism, xenophobia and discrimination on the ground of religion or belief. Equal treatment legislation at national and European level is one of these challenges. Legislation has to clearly define key concepts such as religion, belief and reasonable accommodation. Furthermore, we need comprehensive legislation covering all aspects of discrimination beyond employment, such as access to goods and services, education, housing and so on.
Another challenge is the lack of resources allocated to equality bodies. Austerity policies and budget cuts have had a harmful impact on the effectiveness and resources of equality bodies. European Member States have to ensure that they have the sufficient human and financial resources to fulfill their mission.
Finally, participating states with one or several equality bodies have to ensure that they are independent and that they can choose their priorities without interference from any quarter.”