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Steering Committee on Anti-Discrimination, Diversity and Inclusion (CDADI)

Council of Europe Strasbourg 10 September 2020
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Dear colleagues,

I want to begin by thanking each and every one of you for taking part in the first plenary meeting of the CDADI.

This event was originally planned for five months ago.

But the complexities created by the COVID-19 pandemic meant that it had to be delayed.

Of course, much of the disruption caused to our way of life continues.

So, we are particularly grateful that you have navigated the obstacles either to be here in person or to join us online, and we are very pleased that this has allowed the important, results-oriented work of your Committee to begin:

That when it comes to standard setting in the field of diversity and
anti-discrimination, progress is now in motion.

The expert committee on Roma and Travellers is testament to that fact.

Your other two expert committees will now be able to start their work on a comprehensive legal instrument for combating hate speech and on the development of a policy framework for intercultural integration.

And I have learnt that two additional working groups will continue exploring the findings on the COVID-19 study and carry out a study on minority youth participation.

The common thread that runs through these important tasks is the opportunity to shape inclusive societies in which every individual is accepted and supported on equal terms.

Everyone in this rooms knows from experience that this cannot be achieved overnight.

Rather, it is a long-term process in which we work patiently, diligently and with determination, to break down prejudice, overcome obstacles and heal divisions.

But the prize is worth the effort.

Looking around Europe today, we can see plenty of examples of progress.

Who could have imagined seventy years ago - when the European Convention on Human Rights was signed in Rome – that so many European societies would be as diverse as they are today?

Who would have thought that our understanding of racial issues and our condemnation of racism would be as widespread?

Who would have known that LGBTI people would have gained the rights, recognition and acceptance that they have in such a significant number of countries?

These changes are in all our interests.

Because inclusive societies are stronger and more resilient in the face of challenges and crises.

When individuals are valued, enabled and confident, their contribution to the community is greater, and we all stand taller together.

But the progress we have made underlines the task that lies before us.

We all know that European communities and societies are too often marked by division, that racism, antisemitism and Islamophobia are still prevalent, and that prejudice against LGBTI people still abounds.

We know also about the difficulties facing people belonging to national minorities, Roma and Travellers, and others.

And we know that hate speech continues to intimidate and exclude so many individuals, amplified by the sheer scale of social media.

So, there is certainly no room for complacency; rather, more action is required.

This Committee brings together an extraordinary range of experience and expertise from across the Council of Europe’s member states.

Together, you have enormous strength in depth, and I have no doubt about your collective capacity to build a common understanding of the issues and to shape the guidelines and standards that will make a difference.

These include that comprehensive legal instrument for combating hate speech;

A policy framework for intercultural integration;

Reinforcing the implementation of our CM recommendation on combating discrimination against LGBTI persons;

Putting into practice the new Strategic Action Plan for Roma and Traveller Inclusion;

Strengthening minority youth participation;

And preparing the guidelines or draft recommendation on protecting vulnerable and minority groups during times of crisis and about which the Secretary General spoke on Tuesday.

The CDADI has the potential to be a dynamic presence that helps countries across Europe to better support their citizens so that every individual – and every society – can reach the higher potential that inclusion and diversity bring.

And I wish you every success.