Why standards for equality bodies?
EU Directives require all EU Members States, accession countries and EEA countries to designate an equality body for the promotion of equal treatment. However, the Directives only provide minimum standards for the competences and limited functional independence of equality bodies and do not guarantee complete independence, effectiveness, sufficient powers and adequate resources for equality bodies.
The vulnerability of equality bodies has been a concern for Equinet for some time now. In our 2010 Annual report, Chair Mandana Zarrehpavar (Danish Institute for Human Rights) explained: “The past year has been a difficult one for equality bodies. Economic downturn and the responses to this context have been accompanied by an increased demand on the services of equality bodies from those who have experienced discrimination. The independence and effectiveness of some equality bodies has been diminished by disproportionate budget cuts, by mergers with inappropriate entities and by political interference in appointments…Equinet believes that standards will contribute to securing the effectiveness and impact of equality bodies and to enabling these bodies to fully realise their potential at national level.”
Our Strategic Plan 2011-2014 suggested a need for standards for equality bodies and commited Equinet to exploring the development of such standards and to supporting action by the European Commission in this area.
This was further developed in the 2015-2018 Strategic Plan, which included a strand of work to support the development of standards for and in the work of equality bodies.
Working paper on developing standards for equality bodies
Overview of Standards – PDF Based on talks held within the Cluster on Standards for Equality Bodies (2015-2016), a working paper on developing standards for equality bodies was published.
This working paper 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.
The working paper was launched in June 2016, in the presence of Commissioner Jourova and in the context of the Equinet conference ‘Strenghening the effectiveness of European Equal Treatment Legislation‘. Read our press release here.
Continued engagement on standards for equality bodies
Standards were given a particular focus in our 2017 Annual Report, and the idea of standards for equality bodies has been taken up by a number of other organisations, such as:
- European Parliament
- UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance
- European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI)
- EU Fundamental Rights Agency
- European Youth Forum
It has been used by members in a number of ways, and has already been translated into a wide variety of languages.
On 3 May 2017, Equinet organised a strategic meeting for its members to discuss further steps that could be taken to achieve the introduction and strengthening of standards for equality bodies. This was held in advance of the ECRI seminar on revising the GPR No. 2: Specialised bodies to combat racism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism and intolerance at national level. We look forward with great interest to the revised version of GPR No.2.