As delivered by Bjørn Berge, Deputy Secretary General of the Council of Europe
Let’s stay united and strong against Russian aggression in Ukraine.
Minister for Equal Opportunities and Family,
Under-Secretary of State,
Ladies and gentlemen,
Where there is discrimination, there can be no equality.
That’s why one of our main priorities for the next four years is to combat all forms of discrimination.
Racism, xenophobia, and hostility towards LGBTI people – or any other group – have no place in our societies in today’s Europe.
They destroy the respect we should have for one another as equals, and undermine individuals’ confidence, dignity and self-worth.
And make no mistake – even seemingly small acts of discrimination can cast a long shadow.
While parts of our continent have a good record in righting these wrongs, progress is patchy and, in some countries, we have moved backwards.
So, we need to act – together – to confront these injustices whenever and wherever they arise.
I want to salute the Italian CM Presidency and your personal commitment, Minister Bonetti, both in your words today and the actions of your administration.
And I also thank both you and Under-Secretary of State Della Vedova - and the Italian government as a whole, for organising this important meeting.
Today we must send a clear message to all countries that want to make progress on this journey towards equality, and the message is quite simple:
The Council of Europe will be at your side.
We have the experience and expertise ready for your use.
For 25 years now, our European Commission against Racism and Intolerance, ECRI, has been helping governments to identify and resolve problems.
And the Advisory Committee on the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities has also played an important role.
The establishment of the Steering Committee on Anti-Discrimination, Diversity and Inclusion (CDADI), two years ago, signalled our intention to go even further.
And in that short time, it has already achieved a lot–
Guidelines on upholding equality and protecting against discrimination and hate during the pandemic and similar crises, showed that the CDADI can react speedily to events, but more importantly apply the lessons learned, from good practices in our member states.
I hope central, regional and local authorities in charge of these issues, as well as national human rights institutions and equality bodies, will make full use of them.
And in recent months further steps have been taken.
Two new draft recommendations have been adopted:
One on multilevel policies and governance for intercultural integration.
And another on combating hate speech, particularly online, and which was drafted jointly with the Steering Committee on Media and Information Society.
At the same time, member states are actively engaged in the work of the CDADI’s three dedicated expert committees –
On Roma and Travellers, intercultural integration and combating hate crime.
I believe we can agree that we must do more in reaching out to young people – so I warmly welcome that two working groups are now preparing a draft recommendation on the active political participation of national minority youth.
In addition, guidance related to sexual orientation and gender identity is being prepared.
I understand and respect that many of our member states were eager to have a specific mechanism to address the issues faced by LGBTI people – and I am glad that this is now in place.
On this subject, let me also mention that preparations are also underway for the first thematic review of the landmark 2010
CM - recommendation on discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity.
A text that I know has resulted over the last 12 years in many vital reforms in Europe.
Drawing on EU funding, there are also three large-scale pilot projects in preparation or underway, to implement multi-level governance models for intercultural integration policies – including one in Italy.
And last but not least, there has been a range of important activities in line with our Strategic Action Plan for Roma and Traveller Inclusion, which runs until 2025.
We need to be ambitious, focused and dedicated.
And I am glad that this is the case for the vast majority of our member states, as no less than 20 new deliverables over the course of the next four years have been identified and decided by our Committee of Ministers.
Again, under the able Italian Presidency of the CM.
These will be presented by CDADI’s dedicated and hard-working Chair, Triantafillos Loukarelis, during our conference today.
There may never be a time when discrimination is eliminated entirely.
But no matter what, that should always be our aim.
And this will certainly inspire us to achieve even more.
Today’s event is no doubt a moment to reflect on the challenges in front of us, and may help us be even more efficient and relevant in the years to come.
Together, we can create a better Europe, in which our citizens are valued for who they are.
We are all different, but all equal.
Thank you for your attention.