All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights” states the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Yet discrimination is a major problem in Europe.

There are cases of children with disabilities who are not given a real chance to ordinary schooling; of immigrants who are not employed because of their foreign names; of women who receive lower salaries because of their gender; of gay or lesbian persons who are harassed because of their sexual orientation; of Roma who are not given protection against mob violence and of Muslims who do not get a permit to build a mosque.

The struggle for human rights is largely about preventing discrimination.

The European Convention on Human Rights states that all its provisions shall be secured “without discrimination on any ground such as sex, race, colour, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, association with a national minority, property, birth or other status” (article 14). This is important, but the protection against discrimination is limited to those rights covered by the Convention. Therefore Protocol No. 12 has been adopted to secure the equal enjoyment of any right in the law and to prohibit discrimination by any public authority. All countries should ratify this Protocol to achieve same standards of equal treatment across Europe.

Establishing non-discrimination legislation, however, is not enough. Governments should also take positive promotional measures to alter existing negative stereotypes. During country visits, the Commissioner evaluates the effectiveness of national non-discrimination norms. Non-governmental organisations representing groups of people who are discriminated against are important contact points for assessing the extent of discrimination. In addition to courts, victims of discrimination can turn to ombudspersons and national equality bodies to be heard.

The Commissioner also raises awareness of discrimination through the publication of Reports, Issue Papers, Human Rights Comments and Viewpoints, and supports the Council of Europe Campaign “Speak out against discrimination” and the Dosta Campaign to fight prejudices towards Roma.

Eliminating all forms of discrimination is a constant task for realising equality  for everybody.


More resources on non-discrimination