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The independent monitoring carried out by the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) helps member states to reduce inequalities based on grounds such as “race”, national or ethnic origin, colour, citizenship, religion, language, sexual orientation, gender identity and sex characteristics. In its 2019 Roadmap to Effective Equality, ECRI notes that, over the last decades, Council of Europe member States have established a stronger institutional framework to promote equality and protect individuals and groups against racism and intolerance, especially through the creation of equality bodies. ECRI continues its monitoring of state action aimed at achieving effective equality and access to rights for all, in particular vulnerable groups. In 2021, it revised two general recommendations on preventing and combating antisemitism on the one hand and anti-Muslim racism and discrimination on the other hand. It now works on a new general recommendation on preventing and combating intolerance and discrimination against LGBTI persons. In an exceptional 2020 statement, ECRI called on Council of Europe member states to consult and cooperate with equality bodies and civil society organisations active in combating racism and intolerance when developing, implementing and evaluating their responses to the Covid-19 pandemic and to ensure that public policies designed to address the challenges posed by the pandemic and its economic consequences are not be based solely on public health and economic considerations but should rely on strong human rights considerations as well. In another statement issued in 2020, ECRI called on all decision-makers in Council of Europe member states to take effective action against racism and discrimination in policing and other areas as well as to increase awareness about the historical dimensions of racism and inequalities, especially colonialism and slavery.

The North-South Centre launched the #SolidAction campaign: One World, Our World in response to the pandemic to highlight solidarity initiatives led by individuals and civil society groups in different parts of the world and a reflection around international solidarity today, its scope, its values, its main agents and its effectiveness.. In a first step, the campaign disseminated 17 inspiring and exemplary initiatives of solidarity on the ground to open the conversation, followed by five interviews. In its following phases the campaign brought together different stakeholders to take a deeper look into solidarity in a context of globalisation and the conditions required for its development and sustainability, reflecting together about the necessary compromises to ensure a sustainable future for all. Two webinars took place.

 

The European Social Charter, the human rights treaty on social and economic rights, guarantees the protection of rights of vulnerable and disadvantaged persons/groups such as: children and young persons (Articles 7 and 17), persons with disabilities (Article 15), migrant workers (Article 19), elderly (Article 23), Roma and other minority groups as well as unlawfully present children and adults on the territory of States Parties.

The ECSR by its decision of 16 October 2018 on the merits of the complaint Equal Rights Trust v. Bulgaria (No. 121/2016) held that there was a violation of Article 16 (the right of the family to social, legal and economic protection) of the Charter concerning the suspension or the termination of the family allowances when the child stops attending school and the termination of the family allowances when the minor becomes a parent; as well as a violation of Article E (non-discrimination) in conjunction with Article 16 of the Charter concerning the discrimination against Roma, and particularly towards Roma female minors.

The European Committee of Social Rights (ESCR) monitors the implementation of the Charter, not only in law, but also in practice. For example, the Committee monitors income inequalities such as the gender pay gap (Articles 4§3 and 20 of the Charter), income inequalities between adult and young workers (Article 4§1) or between nationals and migrant workers (Article 19).

The ECSR by its decision of 24 January 2018 on the merits of the complaint European Committee for Home-Based Priority Action for the Child and the Family (EUROCEF) v. France (No. 114/2015) concluded to several violations to the right of unaccompanied foreign minors to social, legal and economic protection in France on several grounds (violations of Article 17§1 of the Charter) due to: shortcomings identified in the national shelter, assessment and allocation system of unaccompanied foreign minors; delays in appointing an ad hoc guardian for unaccompanied foreign minors; the detention of unaccompanied foreign minors in waiting areas and in hotels; the use of bone testing to determine the age of unaccompanied foreign minors considered as inappropriate and unreliable; a lack of clarity to access an effective remedy for unaccompanied foreign minors. The decision in EUROCEF v. France also concerned lack of access to education for unaccompanied foreign minors aged between 16 and 18 years (violation of Article 17§2 of the Charter); inappropriate accommodation of minors and their exposure to life on the street; (violation of Article 7§10 of the Charter); lack of access to health of unaccompanied foreign minors (violation of Article 11§1 of the Charter); lack of access to social and medical assistance of unaccompanied foreign minors (violation of Article 13§1 of the Charter); lack of provision of a shelter (violation of Article 31§2 of the Charter).

The ECSR by its decision of 16 October 2018 on the merits of the complaint Equal Rights Trust v. Bulgaria (No. 121/2016) held that there was a violation of Article 16 (the right of the family to social, legal and economic protection) of the Charter concerning the suspension or the termination of the family allowances when the child stops attending school and the termination of the family allowances when the minor becomes a parent; as well as a violation of Article E (non-discrimination) in conjunction with Article 16 of the Charter concerning the discrimination against Roma, and particularly towards Roma female minors.

The ECSR by its decision of 17 June 2020 on the merits of the complaint submitted by European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) and Mental Disability Advocacy Centre (MDAC) v. Czech Republic (No. 157/2017), held that: (i) there was a violation of Article 17 of the 1961 Charter on the ground that the application of the legal framework of institutional care and operation of children centres as provided for by the Health Care Act does not ensure appropriate protection and care for children under the age of 3; (ii) there was a violation of Article 17 of the 1961 Charter on the ground that adequate measures have not been taken to provide children under the age of 3 with services in family-based and community-based family-type settings and to progressively de-institutionalise the existing system of early childhood care; and (iii) there was a violation of Article 17 of the 1961 Charter on the ground that necessary measures have not been taken to ensure the right to appropriate protection and appropriate care services of Roma children and children with disabilities under the age of 3.

In its Conclusions 2019, the Committee examined the implementation of Article 19 of the European Social Charter with regard to the rights of migrant workers and their families to protection and assistance. The Committee found in particular infringements on the right to family reunion (under Article 19§6 of the Charter). Apart from obstacles to family reunion related to excessive residence, language or income requirements, the Committee noted that in many cases the expulsion of a migrant worker could entail the expulsion of his/her family members, without assessing their own personal circumstances. In other cases, the reasons for expulsion went beyond the exemptions allowed under the Charter, in particular in situations where migrant workers do not endanger national security or offend against public interest or morality (Article 19§8 of the Charter).

A requirement of a period of residence as a condition of eligibility for public housing that applies equally to nationals and non-nationals is a breach of Article 19§4 of the Charter. Such a requirement is characterised by the Committee as indirect discrimination because it is a requirement that non-national migrant workers find significantly more difficult to comply with than nationals and that cannot be justified for good public interest reasons.

The findings of non-conformity under Article 19§1 of the Charter revealed predominantly problems with practical and legal measures to tackle racism and xenophobia and prevent hate speech in media and public discourse.

 

HELP course on Fight against Racism, Xenophobia, Homophobia and Transphobia. It has the following modules:

  • Introduction
  • Legal framework
  • Racism and Xenophobia
  • Homophobia and Transphobia

HELP course on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. It has the following modules:

  • Introductory module
  • Non-discrimination and intersectionality
  • Legal capacity and independent living
  • Accessibility and independent living
  • Social rights of persons with disabilities

HELP courses in the area of migration, developed/updated jointly with the Independent Human Rights Bodies Division, the Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary General on Migration and Refugees (SRSG) and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) are the following ones:

Asylum and the European Convention on Human Rights:

  • Article 3 Prohibition of torture
  • Article 5 The right to liberty and security
  • Article 8 The right to respect for family and private life
  • Article 13 The right to an effective remedy
  • Article 2, Protocol 4 Freedom of movement

Refugee and Migrant Children:

  • Introduction to the legal framework
  • Child-friendly procedures
  • Alternatives to detention
  • Family reunification
  • Social rights and integration
  • Guardianship
  • Age assessment

Alternatives to Immigration Detention:

  • Introductory Module
  • Legal and Practical Basics
  • Legal Framework
  • What Possible Types of Alternatives?
  • How to make Alternatives effective

Other HELP courses featured more specifically under other SDG can be also relevant such as:

  • HELP course on Antidiscrimination (SDG5)
  • HELP course on Labour Rights (SDG8)

 

To contribute to the implementation of this goal, the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers established in 2020 the Steering Committee on Anti-discrimination, Diversity and Inclusion (CDADI). It steers the Council of Europe’s intergovernmental work to promote equality for all and build more inclusive societies that offer adequate protection from discrimination and hate, and where diversity is respected.

The Council of Europe Recommendation CM/Rec(2010)5 of the Committee of Ministers to member States on measures to combat discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity is a unique instrument which identifies very specific measures to ensure full respect for LGBT persons, promote tolerance towards them and ensure that victims have access to legal remedies. In 2019, the Council of Europe carried out a comprehensive review of the implementation of the Recommendation by member States and the report is available on the SOGI Unit’s web site. In addition, in 2021, a thematic review dedicated to legal gender recognition in Europe was conducted. In 2020 and 2021, the Unit also organised regular exchanges between the European Network of Governmental LGBTI Focal Points and the Council of Europe Committee on Anti-Discrimination, Diversity and Inclusion (CDADI) in order to discuss policy developments to improve the implementation of Recommendation (2010)5. Through its cooperation activities, the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Unit (SOGI Unit) addresses issues related to hate crime and hate speech against LGBTI persons, homophobic and transphobic violence and bullying at schools, multiple discrimination, legal recognition of same-sex couples, legal gender recognition of transgender persons, inclusive employment, LGBTI asylum seekers, as well as protection of intersex children, and has helped improving the legal framework, practices and policies of the member States that seek its expertise.

For the years 2022-2025, the CDADI was given a challenging work programme that comprises the preparation of 20 deliverables together with three committees of experts and two working groups. The deliverables include the preparation of feasibility studies and draft Committee of Ministers Recommendations on combating hate speech; active political participation of national minority youth; equality for Roma and Traveller women and girls; the impact of artificial intelligence systems, their potential for promoting equality – including gender equality - and the risks they may cause in relation to non-discrimination; desegregation and inclusion policies and practices in the field of education including Roma and Traveller children; and the equality of rights of intersex persons.

 

The promotion of human rights of older persons is ensured through the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers’ Recommendation CM/Rec(2014)2. The implementation of this instrument is ensured by the Steering Committee for Human Rights (CDDH) through the compilation of examples of national good practice.

Guidelines of the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers to member States on the protection and promotion of human rights in culturally diverse societies were adopted on 2 March 2016. A publication gathering the text of the Guidelines, of the compilation of existing standards in the field as well as of the proceedings of the Seminar is available on line.

 

With the adoption and the implementation of the Council of Europe Action Plan on Vulnerable Persons in the context of Migration in Europe (2022-2027), coordinated by the Special Representative of the Secretary General on Migration and Refugees, the Council of Europe will contribute further achieving SDG 10 “Reduce inequality within and among countries”, and SDG 16 “Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.

Concrete activities of the Action Plan, when implemented, will provide for more targeted contribution to specific Sustainable Development Goals, such as SDG 3 , SDG 4, SDG 5 and SDG 8.

In the framework of the Council of Europe Action Plan on Protecting Refugee and Migrant Children, the Youth Department is implementing a project “Youth.Together” which seeks to reduce social exclusion and violence to which young refugees, especially minors in transition to adulthood, are exposed. It supports the social inclusion of young refugees and their access to education, self-development and autonomy through youth work and non-formal education activities. The Committee of Ministers adopted Recommendation CM/Rec(2019)4 on supporting young refugees in transition to adulthood on 24 April 2019. The recommendation is available in English, French, Dutch, German, Greek, Hungarian, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, Russian and Turkish.

Sport, through its values, promotes equality and inclusion between people across the world. The Saint-Denis Convention stresses the importance of having equal conditions of access for all participants, as a key condition for safe, secure and welcoming sporting events. Equal participation in clean sport for athletes from all countries and in all sports disciplines is ensured by implementing requirements of the Anti-Doping Convention and developing international standards for adoption by the World Anti-Doping Agency.

Sport, through its values, promotes equality and inclusion between people across the world. The Saint-Denis Convention stresses the importance of having equal conditions of access for all participants, as a key condition for safe, secure and welcoming sporting events. Equal participation in clean sport for athletes from all countries and in all sports disciplines is ensured by implementing requirements of the Anti-Doping Convention and developing international standards for adoption by the World Anti-Doping Agency.

The Anti-Doping Convention (ETS No. 135) refers to sportsmen and sportswomen as the main beneficiaries of the Convention’s system and specifically requires equality when conducting doping controls. Furthermore, the Saint-Denis Convention (CETS No. 218) also promotes diversity and gender equality for all participants, including spectators, at sports events.

The Council of Europe’s Strategic Action Plan for Roma and Traveller Inclusion (2020-2025) is designed to protect human dignity, human rights and individual freedoms with regard to the application of biology and medicine.

This Strategic Action Plan includes the pillar on equity in healthcare which pursues two strategic objectives, the first has regard to promoting equitable and timely access to appropriate innovative treatments and technologies in healthcare with action to elaborate a draft Recommendation on equitable and timely access to innovative treatments and technologies in healthcare system. The second strategic objective has regard to combating health disparities created by social and demographic changes in Council of Europe member State with action to develop a Guide to health literacy for older persons as well as other persons in vulnerable situations.

In view of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Council of Europe’s Committee on Bioethics has prioritized new work on equitable and timely access to vaccines comprising inter alia a Statement on COVID-19 and vaccines: Ensuring equitable access to vaccination during the current and future public health crises adopted in January 2021 and the elaboration of guidelines on equitable access to treatments and equipment.

New Council of Europe multilateral and multidimensional cooperation project on “Protection of human rights in healthcare during public health crises”. 

The Secretary General of the Council of Europe in a document published on 15 September 2020 : “A Council of Europe contribution to support member states in addressing healthcare issues in the context of the present public health crisis and beyond” announced a new multilateral and multidimensional cooperation project to address healthcare issues and devise effective, tailor-made solutions to be implemented at national level. The project was presented to the member states in February 2021.

Acknowledging the increase of existing inequalities in the context of public health crises such as the Covid-19 pandemic, the Project will pay particular attention to persons in vulnerable situations and ensuring that they can effectively exercise their rights, including their right to the protection of health and that they have equitable access to health care.

 

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe has been regularly addressing issues relating to global and European inequalities over the past years. Its latest texts in this area, which were elaborated in close collaboration with other international and European organisations (e.g. the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and NGOs (e.g. Oxfam) were Resolution 2158 (2017) on Fighting income inequality as a means of fostering social cohesion and economic development and Resolution 2302 (2019) on The Council of Europe Development Bank: contributing to building a more inclusive societyResolution 2373 (2021) Discrimination against persons dealing with chronic and long-term illnesses”, Resolution 2393 (2021) and Recommendation 2210 (2021) on “Socio-economic inequalities in Europe: time to restore social trust by strengthening social rights” and Resolution 2410 (2021) and Recommendation 2216 (2021) on the “Best interests of the child and policies to ensure a work-life balance” were adopted by the Assembly in 2021. Reports on “Deinstitutionalisation of persons with disabilities”, “Eradicating extreme child poverty in Europe: an international obligation and a moral duty” and “Health and social protection of undocumented workers” are currently on the work programme of the Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development.

Different targets under goal 10 were also addressed through Resolution 2153 (2017) on Promoting the inclusion of Roma and Travellers and Resolution 2155 (2017) on The political rights of persons with disabilities: a democratic issue. The activities of the No Hate Parliamentary Alliance, an alliance of parliamentarians who commit to taking open, firm and pro-active stands against racism, hatred and intolerance, established in 2015, also contribute to combating discrimination and promoting political inclusion of all.

The Congress of Local and Regional Authorities adopted the following texts of relevance:

 

The work of the Commissioner for Human Rights relating to reducing inequality comprises a wide range of actions focused on promoting the social, economic and political inclusion of all, irrespective of age, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, race, ethnic origin, religion or economic or other status. The activities of the Commissioner on this theme have been undertaken in different thematic areas such as human rights of LGTBI persons, human rights of persons with disabilities, human rights and migration, human rights of Roma and Travellers, and women’s rights and gender equality. The Commissioner has also carried out some country and thematic work relating to racism and intolerance and on the human rights of older persons. . In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Commissioners published a number of statements where she called for measures to reduce inequalities for a number of the groups mentioned above.

See in particular:

Thematic webpages:

Concerning human rights of older persons, see in particular the Human Rights Comments:

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