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Standards for Equality Bodies presented to Member State representatives

October 24th 2017

The Equinet network, and in particular its work on standards for equality bodies, was presented to Member State representatives this week, at the European Commission’s High Level Group on Non-discrimination, Equality and Diversity.

Equinet was invited to the meeting of the European Commission’s High Level Group on Non-discrimination, Equality and Diversity, which took place on 24 October 2017. Tena Šimonović Einwalter, new Chair of Equinet and Deputy Ombudswoman of Croatia, accompanied by Executive Director Anne Gaspard and Head of Policy and Legal, Tamás Kádár, presented the Equinet Working Paper on Developing Standards for Equality Bodies to Member State representatives in attendance.
[See presentation.]

In the current context of rising inequalities and discrimination, equality bodies aim to provide essential support to individuals, guidance for institutions, and an authoritative voice within society to advance equality and challenge discrimination. However, in order for them to do so successfully, they need to be independent, well-resourced and effective institutions.

EU Directives require all EU Member States, accession countries and EEA countries to designate one or more equality bodies for the promotion of equal treatment on certain grounds. However the Directives provide only minimum standards for the competences and functional independence of equality bodies and do not adequately guarantee independence, effectiveness, sufficient powers and adequate resources.

This working paper sets out a framework for standards addressing mandates; complete independence; effectiveness; and a strong institutional architecture for equality. It combines a concern to include minimum basic standards alongside standards that would ensure the full potential of an equality body is achieved. It does so to ensure that standards recognise and:

  • Enable the particular role, capabilities, and potential of equality bodies.
  • Respond to the wider institutional architecture in which equality bodies are located.
  • Address the changed context for equality bodies and new trends and evolution in their establishment, mandates, and operation.

Overview - A Framework for Standards  (Click to enlarge picture)

What is the High Level Group on Non-discrimination, Equality and Diversity?

Equality and non-discrimination have strong foundations in the European Union. The Treaties on European Union identify the value of equality as foundational. They confer a competence on the European Union to combat discrimination based on sex (including gender identity), racial or ethnic origin, religion or belief, disability, age and sexual orientation. They require the European Union to mainstream non-discrimination in its policies, processes and programmes.

The European Union has built effectively on these foundations. Equal treatment directives have been enacted, wide-ranging policies have been implemented to advance equality for different groups, both at national and European level, with the support of EU funding programmes.

The Governmental Expert Group in the field of non-discrimination (2008-2013) represented an important first step in the co-operation and coordination between the Member States and between the European Commission ("the Commission") and the Member States in addressing common concerns and advancing shared objectives. The diversity of Member States approaches to an issue becomes a resource for learning and for the dismantling of barriers, as shown by the various good practice exchanges on public policies organised in the framework of this group.

The Commission consulted the Governmental Expert Group at the last meeting on the ways to improve the work of the group to make it more meaningful and effective. As a result of this discussion and further rounds of written consultations, a first orientation paper was presented and discussed during the High Level Event on Non-Discrimination and Equality in Rome (November 2014). There it was decided to establish a High Level Group on Non-Discrimination, Diversity and Equality to advance cooperation between the Member States and the European Commission.

The tasks of the Group are:

  • To accompany the development and implementation of policies and programmes at EU and national level aimed at combating discrimination, promoting equality and diversity.
  • To deepen cooperation and coordination between Member States’ relevant authorities and the Commission on questions relating to achieving diversity and full equality in practice, and eliminating discrimination; in particular through the exchange of experiences and good practices on related issues of common interest to be defined by the Group and the establishing, when appropriate, of common policy objectives
  • To deepen the coherence of effort for equality and against discrimination between the members of the Group, the Presidency, the Council, the European Parliament, the European Commission, and the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights.
  • Any other topic that may emerge which is found relevant by the Commission and the Group.

Further background information on the High Level Group is available here.