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New general policy guidelines on strengthening equality bodies to combat discrimination and intolerance

February 26th 2018

To better protect people exposed to discrimination, states should step up the efficiency, independence and impact of equality bodies, says the Council of Europe’s anti-racism Commission in a new set of recommendations to the European governments published today.

Equinet warmly welcomes these recommendations to strengthen the independence, effectiveness, functions and powers of equality bodies which will result in more equal societies for all.

The new General Policy Recommendation of the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) draws on existing good practices and focuses on the key elements for the establishment and effective functioning of equality bodies. These bodies should be established by constitutional provision or parliamentary legislation, be set up as a separate legal entity outside the executive and legislature, and work without interference from the State or political parties.

Equality bodies should have two key functions:

  1. to promote equality and prevent discrimination, in particular by conducting inquiries, pursuing research, raising awareness, supporting good practice, making recommendations and contributing to legislation and policy formation;
  2. and to support those exposed to discrimination and pursue litigation on their behalf.
GPR 2: Key Topics
GPR 2: Key Topics

Equality bodies can have an additional function of deciding on complaints of discrimination by taking legally binding decisions to impose sanctions, or by making non-binding recommendations.

ECRI’s Chair Jean-Paul Lehners underlined: “People exposed to discrimination and intolerance often have neither the capacity nor the resources to enforce their rights. Equality bodies, therefore, have an important role in helping them to solve their problems.”

Equality bodies should be entitled to make statements independently and to decide themselves on their internal structure, management of their budget, recruitment and deployment of staff, and their activity programme. Parliaments and governments should contribute to the implementation of their recommendations. Equality bodies should be provided with sufficient staff and funds, and there should be safeguards in place to protect the independence of the persons leading the body.

For more information:

A list of ECRIs General Policy Recommendations is available here.

Equinet Reaction

Overview - PDF
Overview - PDF

Equinet welcomes ECRI’s new General Policy Recommendation to strengthen the independence, effectiveness, functions and powers of equality bodies. Since the release of our ’Working Paper on developing Standards for Equality Bodies’, Equinet has been calling for standards for national equality bodies that ensure the potential of equality bodies to support the achievement of full equality in practice. They are needed to empower equality bodies with an authority and a standing that protects them from being undermined or diminished in the exercise of their functions. Strong standards for national equality bodies will result in more equal societies for all.

"Equality bodies play an essential role in advancing equality and combating discrimination and intolerance. The ECRI General Policy Recommendation on the establishment and functioning of equality bodies recognises the importance of their work and offers clear guidance on how Council of Europe Member States can strengthen equality bodies to achieve equality and social cohesion. Equinet supports this call for independent and effective equality bodies with the powers and resources to ensure that our rights to equality are applied on the ground and made accessible to all," according to Equinet Chair Tena Šimonović Einwalter.

Read more about Equinet’s work on Standards for Equality Bodies.