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Patrick Charlier and Els Keytsman
Unia is an interfederal, independent public service specialising in policy on equal opportunity and non-discrimination. Founded on human rights, its mission is to promote equal opportunities and rights for all citizens and to fight against discrimination. This mission is conducted with a view to contribute to collective development and in a spirit of dialogue, collaboration and respect.
The Centre was created pursuant to the law of 15 February 1993. This law stipulates that the Centre is a public service, which is wholly independent in the fulfilment of its statutory missions and carries out its duties in a spirit of dialogue and in cooperation with other players. This makes the Centre an institution with a unique and distinctive character, its status differing from that of federal administrations, semi-public institutions or state-owned companies.
When it was founded, the Centre’s sole area of competence was the fight against racism. Today its remit is much more wide-ranging, as its mission is to promote equal opportunities and the fight against all forms of distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on nationality, alleged race, skin colour, ancestry, national or ethnic origin, but also sexual orientation, civil status, birth, wealth, age, religious or philosophical conviction, current or future state of health, disability, political beliefs, physical or genetic characteristics, or social background.1 Gender-related matters fall under the remit of our sister institution, the Institute for the Equality of Women and Men.
During the Interministerial Conference of 12 July 2011 and in application of Article 33, paragraph 2 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the federal government, the regions and the communities also decided to grant the Centre the mandate of ‘independent mechanism to promote, protect and monitor implementation of the Convention’. To this end, a Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Service was set up, with the aim of ensuring promotion, protection and monitoring of implementation of the Convention.
In July 2012 the federal government, the regions and the communities concluded an agreement aimed at turning the Centre for Equal Opportunities and Opposition to Racism, currently a federal institution, into an interfederal institution for the fight against discrimination. The Centre thus sees its anti-discrimination mission extended to take in the regions’ and communities’ areas of competence, in addition to the federal remit.
Any citizen in the country will be able to report to a single body if he/she is the victim of discrimination based on the criteria laid down by the law. Moreover, this agreement also opens up new possibilities for consultation and cooperation between the country’s different authorities in the fight against discrimination, whilst still guaranteeing respect for the autonomy and areas of competence of each of the (federal or federated) entities.
The agreement furthermore stipulates that the Centre’s current missions in the field of the analysis of migratory movements, fundamental rights of foreigners and the trade in human beings will be entrusted to a separate federal institute. Further to this agreement, in December the council of ministers approved two bills: one concerns approval of the cooperation agreement of 23 July 2012 which creates an interfederal centre for equal opportunities and opposition to racism and discrimination (Unia); The other creates a federal centre for the analysis of migratory flows, protection of the fundamental rights of foreigners, and the fight against the trade in human beings (Myria).
|Activities aimed at supporting vulnerable groups (e.g. through trainings)||no||yes||yes||yes||yes||yes|
|Activities aimed at supporting duty bearers such as employers and service providers (e.g. through trainings, guidance material, practical support, etc.)||no||yes||yes||yes||yes||yes|
|Communication activities (e.g. awareness raising campaigns)||no||yes||yes||yes||yes||yes|
|Recommendations on discrimination issues||no||yes||yes||yes||yes||yes|
|Publications and reports||no||yes||yes||yes||yes||yes|
|Research projects (including surveys)||no||yes||yes||yes||yes||yes|
|Number of inquiries handled per year (all contact even if not resulting in a formal complaint)||3608||4162||4226||3713||4627||4554|
|Number of cases handled per year (case files opened and processed according to your procedures)||1343||1277||1316||1406||1670||1596|
|Number of media appearances per year (major newspapers/magazines/websites/blogs, TV + radio channels) - does not include social media||no data||no data||no data||no data||no data||no data|
The appointment of the directors is a prerogative of the interfederal Board.
The Board of Directors of Unia, the Interfederal Centre for Equal Opportunities consists of 21 members appointed by the Parliaments:
10 by the federal Chamber of Representatives
4 by the Flemish Parliament
2 by the Walloon Parliament
2 by the Parliament of the French Community (Fédération Wallonie-Bruxelles)
2 by the Brussels Parliament
1 by the Parliament of the German-speaking Community
Four chambers have been created within the interfederal Board (Flemish, Brussels, French-speaking and Federal) which will deal with issues that fall exclusively with their competence.
The appointment of the directors and of any coordinators will be a prerogative of the interfederal Board.
|no data||72||67||78||90||no data|
|GroundsFields||Employment||Education||Housing||Social Protection & Healthcare||Goods & Services||Other|
|Race and Ethnic Origin||yes||yes||yes||yes||yes||Media and Internet|
|Age||yes||yes||yes||yes||yes||Media and Internet|
|Disability||yes||yes||yes||yes||yes||Media and Internet|
|Sexual Orientation||yes||yes||yes||yes||yes||Media and Internet|
|Religion & Belief||yes||yes||yes||yes||yes||Media and Internet|
Other grounds : Political orientation, social status, health condition, fortune, civil status
The use of public transportation often poses problems for persons with disabilities. This campaign addresses the problems they experience when travelling by train. It was organised by the Interfederal Centre for Equal Opportunities and the High National Council for Persons with a Disability (Belgium) and took place in Dutch and French during one day in the main train station in Brussels.
The Belgian Equality Body, Unia (Interfederal Centre for Equal Opportunities), has launched a social media debate with numbers, graphics and the hashtags #EgauxEnBelgique and #GelijkinBelgië (in English: #EqualInBelgium) on equality in Belgium.