Held on 22 September 2015 in the offices of the Secretary of State of Social Services and Equality (Spain), this European roundtable entitled ’Strengthening Equality Bodies: expanding discrimination grounds, enhancing powers and improving capacity to reach out and communicate effectively’ was organized in the framework of a bilateral exchange project between the Norwegian Equality Ombud (LDO) and the Spanish Council for the Elimination of Racial or Ethnic Discrimination.
The knowledge gathered through this exchange, together with the work on standards for equality bodies recently launched in the framework of Equinet, offer a solid basis for a general reflection on possibilities and challenges of strengthening existing Equality bodies.
The bilateral exchange project is co-financed under the Programme on Equality and Conciliation of Personal and Family Life of the Financial Mechanism of the European Economic Area (EEA-Grants).
The aim of this roundtable was to reflect on the challenges posed by an expansion of existing equality bodies in terms of the discrimination grounds covered, its powers, its visibility and/or its accessibility and capacity to reach out to victims of discrimination and to come up with strategies and practical solutions to tackle them.
The roundtable applied the Chatham House Rules, but overall, the different working sessions discussed the above-mentioned challenges on the basis of the practical experiences that specific equality bodies have gathered when expanding their scope and powers or otherwise reinforcing their institutional position, their independence, their outreach capacity or their overall effectiveness.
An introductory session on the evolution of EU law (Sarah-Jane King, Deputy Head of Unit, Equal Treatment Legislation, DG Justice, European Commission), the existing trends and typology (Niall Crowley, Equinet board advisor), and the current work on standards for equality bodies (Anne Gaspard, Equinet Executive Director) set the framework for these discussions.
European institutions, leading staff of the Norwegian LDO and other selected European equality bodies, members of the Spanish Council for the Elimination of Ethnic or Racial Discrimination and independent experts in the field of non discrimination attended the meeting. Equinet members were present in most session as speakers. See the Agenda below for more details.