On the eve of the Presidency Equality summit that will launch the Year of Equal Opportunities, the Social Platform called for the EU and Member States to take concrete actions to eradicate discrimination.
"There are no equal opportunities without equal rights for all. Discrimination continues to exist despite existing EU legislation," declared Anne-Sophie Parent, President of the Platform of European Social NGOs. "It is time for Member States to take responsibility in levelling up anti-discrimination and gender equality rules taking into account that equality goes beyond the labour market driven agenda. Fighting discrimination is not only a matter of raising employment rates, but also a fundamental right of every individual."
To put words into deeds, social NGOs issued four recommendations to ensure effective mechanism of equality implementation. First, the law is not enough: concrete proposals and action plans ensuring equality in practice should be proposed at the end of the year during the Lisbon summit. Second, the talk show about diversity should become an act show -beyond speeches, public authorities have a crucial role in showing what it really means in practice to embrace equality: a programme with benchmarks and means to achieve the representation of all groups in public administration could be a first step forward. Third, respect is not only legislation, but also education. Raising awareness in formal and informal education, but also through the media is essential in dissipating discrimination. Social NGOs call for media representatives to be involved in the Year 2007 and come up at the Lisbon Summit with concrete recommendations to improve the situation. Last, but not least Member Sates and national equality bodies should report at the Spring Summit 2008 on how they involved civil society in the anti-discrimination and equality activities held during the European Year. "Policy making should not only be done for the people, but with the people", said Parent stressing the fact that social NGOs represent the victims of discrimination.
Social NGOs believe that holding a conference on the issue is not enough. "The summit should come up with clear decisions on the Year´s objectives," added Parent. "It will be essential that on the basis of these objectives, continuity and long term progress is built on the various events organised during the Year."
Measurable objectives are needed to demonstrate to citizens that the EU is moving forward in creating a discrimination-free Europe.
The full contribution of the Social Platform to the Equality Summit taking place on 30-31 January.