Towards the Global Summit on Racism and European Preparatory Conference; Report of the Ireland
Introduction and Purpose of the Conference
The European and World Conferences on Racism
Introduction and Purpose of the Conference
Anastasia Crickley, Chairperson NCCRI
The National Consultative Committee on Racism is delighted to organise this conference in association with the Department of Justice and Equality and Law Reform and the Department of Foreign Affairs. It is our contribution to the European preparatory conferences for the global conference on racism, which take place in Strasbourg in October 2000 and South Africa in September 2001.
Non-discrimination on the grounds of race is one of the guiding principles of the United Nations. It is both timely and important that we renew our commitment to this principle, both individually and collectively and locally, nationally regionally and globally.
The discussions and preparations for the World Conference on Racism and more particularly the follow up and implementation of the declarations that are agreed at the conferences, provide all of us whether we are NGOs, state agencies, governments or individuals, with an opportunity to take stock of our shortcomings and of our achievements and to clearly lay out what remains to be done.
It is an opportunity for us in Ireland, whatever sector we are from, to act globally and regionally with other countries in addressing racism throughout the world. Like other countries, we have reasons for pride and we also have reasons for shame, but this is our opportunity to consider the way forward with regard to both.
The World Conference on Racism was agreed by the general assembly of the United Nations on a proposal from the United Nations Commission on Human Rights headed by Mary Robinson, who has taken a particular and very personal interest in both the conference and in the preparations for it. The Commissioner has responsibility for the preparation of the conference.
Commitments have been given from the outset to the inclusion of as many different and diverse voices as possible in the preparations and in the conference itself, and we are particularly committed here in Ireland to insuring nationally and internationally that that is the case.
The European regional preparation is being lead by the Council of Europe, which has four themes: legal redress; policies and practices; education and awareness and information, communication and the media. There are also on-going preparations taking place in Geneva, but I would suggest to you that the most important work from our perspective is here in Ireland. In this context, I was delighted to hear of the Government’s commitment to implement the International Convention of the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination. This is the sort of commitment we need nationally and I hope is also a starting point to the type of contribution that we as a member state of the United Nations can make on this issue globally.
We in the National Consultative Committee on Racism are glad to play a co-ordinating role in Ireland to maximise participation. A number of key issues are emerging in the European context, issues around Roma, Travellers and Gypsies, issues around immigration, including asylum and migration and also issues around the intersection of racism and gender. These are all issues about which we have concerns in Ireland, so we feel there are a variety of things we can contribute to European discussion
Some of the things that we hope to do over the next year include a commitment to produce and launch a report before the European preparatory conferences. Following these conferences, we will organise a feedback meeting for any groups, organisations or individuals who are interested and next year we will organise a meeting in the run up to the World Conference. But most importantly we look forward to working with you, to implement what is agreed in Strasbourg and to implement what is agreed next year in South Africa and to work towards the creation of the sort of society that we want to be part of, both nationally and globally.
Addressing racism is, I feel and urgent and essential requirement to create a truly human Ireland in this new millennium. Your contributions today will be of particular importance in beginning that task.
John O Donoghue, TD, Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform.
I greatly welcome this Preparatory Conference organised by the National Consultative Committee on Racism and Interculturalism in association with my Department and the Department of Foreign Affairs.
This Conference forms part of Ireland's preparations for the European and World conferences on racism. Today's event will assist in developing our awareness of the many issues concerning racism and discrimination. The four main themes under discussion today reflect those of the European Conference and I will refer to those themes in my address to you this morning.
The subject of the first theme is legal protection against racism. I am proud of the fact that Ireland has made very significant progress over the past three years in developing new legislation to protect against racism, in particular, discrimination on racist grounds. I am particularly pleased to have piloted through the Oireachtas both the Employment Equality Act, 1998 and the Equal Status Act, 2000 which prohibits discrimination on nine grounds including religion, race and membership of the Traveller community. Both Acts contain a broad definition of race which covers race, colour, nationality or ethnic or national origins. The Employment Equality Act, which has been in operation since October, 1999 is comprehensive and covers discrimination in relation to access to employment, conditions of employment, equal pay for work of equal value, training, promotion and work experience. The Equal Status Act complements the Employment Equality Act and protects against discrimination in education, the provision of goods, services and accommodation, and the disposal of property. I intend to have the Equal Status Act in full operation before the end of next month.
An equality infrastructure has also been put in place by the Government to underpin the legislation, i.e., the Equality Authority and the Office of Director of Equality Investigations. The Authority will work towards the elimination of discrimination on the grounds of race and the other grounds under the legislation. The office of the Director of Equality Investigations provides the main locus of redress of first instance for individuals who consider that they may have suffered discrimination.
In addition, we intend to ratify the UN Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD) in the coming months. Ireland had not ratified this convention as our legal advisors had advised that Ireland could not ratify until the necessary domestic anti-discrimination legislation was in place. The Government has now put that legislation in place. When the Equal Status Act comes into operation next month, the process towards ratification can commence and will, hopefully, be completed before the end of this year.
As signaled by the Taoiseach on the 50th Anniversary of the UN Declaration on Human Rights, the Human Rights Commission Act, 2000 was enacted earlier this year. The Commission to be established under the Act will be a powerful new independent body charged with the task of keeping under review the adequacy and effectiveness of our laws in relation to the protection of Human Rights in their widest sense. The President of the Commission, Mr. Justice Donal Barrington was a judge of the Supreme Court and the European Court of Justice. A Selection Committee is presently engaged in drawing up a list of names of suitable candidates for the Government to appoint to the position of Human Rights Commissioner in line with the criteria laid down in the Act on qualification, gender and pluralism.
Another important parallel development is the decision by the Government to incorporate the European Convention on Human Rights into our law by means of legislation. Work on the matter is proceeding so that the legislation can be brought into effect as soon as possible.
Ireland has legislation in place for the past ten years prohibiting incitement to hatred. The Prohibition of Incitement to Hatred Act, 1989 makes it an offence to incite hatred against any group of persons in the State or elsewhere on account of their race, colour, nationality, religion, ethnic or national origins, or membership of the Traveller community. I am aware that there has been some criticism of the effectiveness of this Act and I understand that since it was enacted only one case involving an alleged breach of the Act was referred to the Director of Public Prosecutions. That case was subsequently dismissed in the District Court. At my request officials have commenced a review of this legislation and I would welcome any suggestions which may lead to an improvement to the existing provisions of the Incitement to Hatred Act.
Legislation on its own, however effective, does not provide all the answers for defeating racism and discrimination. Other measures and approaches are also necessary.
The second theme of the conference, dealing with policies and practices against racism, suggests that State institutions have an important role to play in addressing racism. Indeed, it suggests that combating racism in all its forms, and the discrimination that ensues, is a primary responsibility of government. However, it is accepted that political parties, the public service, law enforcement agencies, educational institutions and indeed the media all have a role to play in this area.
Earlier this year, the National Consultative Committee on Racism and Interculturalism, as part of its overall aim of developing an integrated approach against racism, introduced an Anti-Racism Protocol for Political Parties and a Declaration of Intent for Candidates for Elections. The initiative is modeled on a Europe-wide initiative called the Charter of Political Parties for a Non-Racist society, which is supported by the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia.
In my opinion, the initiative is an excellent one and I would like to encourage the NCCRI to examine the possibility of extending the idea to other areas. All sectors of society, i.e., all institutions, associations, unions and the media could play a role in helping to defeat racism and related discrimination.
Our national police force, the Garda Síochána, are determined to learn from the experience of other countries and have taken a number of initiatives on policing in an inter cultural society. In their Annual Plan for 2000, the Gardaí have set down guiding principles for dealing with interculturalism, including the commitment to treat everyone fairly, regardless of ethnic origin, religious belief, gender, sexual orientation, disability or social background. In order to enhance the operational capacity of the Gardaí in providing a police service in inter cultural Ireland, the Garda authorities have approved the establishment of a Garda Inter cultural Office. The new office will operate under the auspices of the Garda Community Relations Section and will be responsible for co-ordinating, monitoring and advising on all aspects of policing in the area of ethnic and cultural diversity.
The Gardaí are committed to the protection of human rights and the dignity of all persons. Over the past number of months, a working group has been reviewing all aspects of Garda training in the area of human rights in order to develop best practices in the light of ongoing changes in the policing environment. The group's action plan includes the establishment of a programme focusing on the further development of human rights training for Gardaí and the publication of a revised code of ethics for the Garda Síochana. The group plans to have most of the strands of the action plan in place by next December.
Prisons are a reflection of the society they serve and, inevitably, our prisons house a number of prisoners who are not of Irish descent. As the proportion of our population who are not of Irish descent grows, it is anticipated that the proportion of the prison population of non-Irish descent will also grow. The Director General of our Prisons Service recently sought proposals for the development of a research and training project for staff and inmates of the prison system to increase their awareness of cultural diversity and aspects of racism that are potentially in each prison. Proposals are currently under consideration. It is hoped that by putting the recommendation of this project into effect the Irish Prisons Service will be able to head off most problems of racism and to deal speedily and effectively with any that may arise.
Policies and practices of governments should include special measures to protect vulnerable minorities. In Europe, Romany Gypsies continue to suffer from persistent prejudice, discrimination and social exclusion. Similarly, in Ireland, the Traveller community is subjected to unacceptable treatment.
The Irish Government is committed to improving the position of Travellers in our society. A monitoring committee, under the chairmanship of my Department, is currently finalising its first report on progress on the recommendations of the Task Force on the Travelling Community. The Committee, which is representative of Traveller interests, the social partners and relevant Government Departments, will be submitting its report to Government later this year.
There is a need for initiatives in this country to improve relationships between Travellers and the settled community. One such initiative commenced last year, i.e., a communication programme for Travellers, entitled "Citizen Traveller". A sum of £900,000 has been provided by the Government to fund the communication programme over a three-year period. The objective of the programme is to promote a greater understanding between Travellers and the settled community and to address the underlying causes of mistrust between both communities.
One of the recommendations of the Task Force on the Travelling Community called on the Government to explore and devise a framework for mediation. In 1999, Pavee Point Traveller Centre began developing a mediation service for the Traveller community. One of the objectives of the mediation service is to bring together the various stakeholders who are concerned about conflicts, including local authority officials, Gardaí, politicians, community leaders, Travellers and Traveller support groups and resident associations, and to encourage such people to develop new and constructive approaches to the resolution of disputes and conflicts. The service provides training and educational workshops which contribute to a greater awareness and understanding of a range of non-violent approaches for dealing with conflict. The service, which receives funding from my Department, is available to members of both the Traveller community and the non-Traveller population who wish to find a solution to their conflict through the process of mediation.
Education and awareness-raising to combat racism is the third theme of the European Conference. The Conference will be calling on Governments to commit themselves to ensuring access without discrimination to education, based on respect for human rights, diversity and tolerance. Governments will also provide for human rights and anti racism education in the school curriculum and in institutions of higher education.
In Ireland, the revised Primary School Curriculum deals comprehensively with issues such as: tolerance, respect, diversity, discrimination, racism, stereotyping and multiculturalism. The Post-Primary Curriculum further develops student appreciation of this whole area. The White Paper on Adult Education, published in July, acknowledges the challenge of providing an inter cultural education. The Paper recommends that adult education should be underpinned by three core principles - two of which are equality and interculturalism. Equality of access, participation and outcome for participants is a key priority. Proactive strategies to counteract barriers arising from differences, including differences in ethnicity are recommended. The Paper also recognises the need to frame educational policy and practice in the context of serving a diverse population as opposed to a uniform one.
The Report of the Interdepartmental Working Group on Integration, which reviewed the arrangements for integrating persons granted refugee status or permission to remain in Ireland, identified the development of a tolerant, inclusive society as crucial for the successful integration of refugees. We are experiencing major changes in Ireland in both our economy and society. Ireland is becoming an increasingly multicultural society. The creation of an environment which recognises refugees as persons who have something to contribute to society has a key role to play in integration. Refugees living in Ireland can enrich our society and contribute to the continued development of our country. They can do so by participating in the activities of the community and society and contributing from their own experiences, culture and background. Successful integration is a complex task which will only be achieved through co-ordinated effort across the entire national spectrum of state and voluntary organisations. It requires the involvement, co-operation and commitment of politicians, government departments, other state agencies, NGOs, business organisations, religious groups and indeed every person in society.
This Government is committed to resolutely tackling any tendency towards an increase in racist views or attitudes in Irish society. The Government has approved in principle a major public awareness campaign with a view to public opinion and debate becoming better informed so that anti-racist coverage is replaced by informed and balanced information. To that end, the National Consultative Committee on Racism and Interculturalism was requested to undertake a comprehensive evaluation of how public opinion can be better informed. The NCCRI was requested to include in its evaluation a media and communications strategy, the role of statutory authorities and political parties, a public education programme and community development strategy. The overall aim of the proposed public awareness programme which will be by way of a comprehensive partnership approach involving the participation of Government and Non-Government Agencies, Statutory Authorities, Educational Bodies, Political Parties and the Media is to contribute to creating the conditions for building a more inclusive and inter cultural society in Ireland where racism is effectively addressed and cultural diversity is viewed as a strength rather than a weakness.
The fourth theme of the European Conference is on the subject of information, communication and the media, including new technologies such as the internet. We know that the media can be used to positive effect as an educational tool, providing access to information and allowing networking to those vulnerable to racism. We should therefore try to develop effective ways of using the media in our efforts to tackle racism. On the negative side, we have the huge problem of "hate speech" in newspapers, on the radio and on the internet. The internet, in particular, presents major difficulties of control. We must consider what measures can be taken to prevent such "hate speech" and try to explore possibilities for establishing good practices in these areas. These are complex issues involving the international community as well.
To conclude, I would like to say that this Preparatory National Conference provides an opportunity for us all to consider and debate these issues and to arrive at proposals which can be included in our presentation to the European Conference. Practical, forward-looking and action-orientated proposals are needed. Proposals which will help to develop a society in Ireland and abroad which is free of racism and racist discrimination. We would all be happier in a society which is devoid of racist abuse and attacks and where each one of us is treated on his or her own merits and not on the basis of prejudice or stereotype. Equality for people is about having the same rights and the same chances and everyone has an equal right to participate in our community.
With these positive thoughts in mind I would like to end by wishing you every success with today's Conference.
The European and World Conferences on Racism
Justin Harman, Permanent Representative of Ireland to the Council of Europe
This presentation into four parts:
1. The Council of Europe
COE was established (with Ireland as a founding member) in 1949 in the immediate aftermath of World War II. The Organisation has been significantly expanded since 1989. The COE now includes all European States (except Yugoslavia and Belarus) and its enlargement has made a contribution to the reconstruction of Europe based on democratic institutions and human rights.
Ireland has been an enthusiastic member since the foundation. We have attached particular importance to its role in human rights. We were the first State in 1953 to ratify the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) which was the first multilateral convention to give rights to individuals. The ECHR has of course had a major impact on our national understanding of human rights. We continue to see the ECHR as the essential reference point for the protection of human rights in Europe, in terms of both guaranteed rights and the judicial protection of those rights. We expect the 50th anniversary of the signature of the Convention later this year to lead to a review of certain aspects of the functioning of the ECHR with a view to its strengthening, including a more effective functioning of the Court of Human Rights.
Ireland acted as Presidency of the COE until May 2000. Among other initiatives, we held a major human rights conference here in Dublin Castle dealing with the subject of complementarity in human rights protection between international organisations. The proceedings of this Conference will be published next month in the European Human Rights Law Review.
As I said, the COE was established to ensure that the atrocities of WWII would never be repeated. Racism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism and intolerance were the main causes of that tragedy. 44 years later at the Vienna Summit in 1993, the COE took a clear, cold look at the reality of the resurgence of racism throughout Europe. That resulted in the establishment of an Action Plan which has ‘mainstreamed’ anti-racism in the core human rights activities of the Council - it was the first international organisation to do so. Crucially, the 1993 Summit established the European Commission Against Racism (ECRI). I will refer to this in more detail at a later stage, particularly insofar as it relates to Ireland.
Examples of where anti-racism has been mainstreamed in COE activities are:
The ‘jewel in the COE crown’ is the ECHR. Article 14 explicitly prohibits discrimination. An additional Protocol (No 12) has now been approved and will be opened for signature shortly. Ireland hopes to be in a position to sign at the ECHR anniversary meeting in Rome next November. That Protocol will significantly broaden the field of application of Article 14 - it will result in a general prohibition of discrimination (it being possible to invoke the existing article 14 in respect of other rights in the ECHR). On coming into force for those States which ratified, it will become an integral part of the ECHR.
Other provisions of the ECHR confer protection against racism and intolerance such as: the prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment (Article 3); the right to liberty and security (Article 5); the right to a fair trial (Article 6); the principle of ‘no punishment without law’ (Article 7). There are others. In addition, Article 1 of Protocol 7 safeguards certain procedural rights of ‘lawfully resident’ aliens against expulsion. We expect that Ireland will be in a position to ratify this Protocol shortly, following the enactment of the Immigration Act.
2. The Organisation of the European Conference
The World Conference on Racism to be held in S Africa was convened by a United Nations General Assemble Resolution in 1997. It is the latest in the series of World Conferences, the most recent in the series being the World Conference on Human Rights in 1993 and the World Conference on Women in 1995. The COE hosted preparatory regional meetings for both. Because of its inclusive membership in Europe and its longstanding involvement in combating intolerance and racism as an integral part of promoting and protecting human rights, the COE was therefore the natural candidate to organise the European preparatory meeting on racism - this will take place in Strasbourg from 11 to 13 October. Significant assistance has been received from the EC. The conference will address racism in a human rights context, underling that discrimination based on race, national origin or other factors constitutes a violation of human rights and dignity.
The aim is to prepare an input to the World Conference that is ‘practical, forward-looking and action-oriented’, based on European experiences while addressing in a comprehensive manner all forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related contemporary forms of intolerance. Preparations for the Conference have been intended to provide a forum for all groups or persons vulnerable to racism, an exchange of information on good practices, and an increase in public awareness. The Conference has been prepared by a technical working group consisting of representatives of all 41 member states. This group has been serviced for Ireland by the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform. I will come separately to the preparations for NGO participation. The Conference will result in General Conclusions and the 41 Ministers present will adopt a separate political declaration.
I would now like to touch on the four themes of the Conference and the four related working groups and set out the expectations of the COE in regard to the outcome of discussion in these areas. Hopefully, this will allow a more focussed exchange in the working groups this afternoon and provide a basis for effective recommendations from this meeting to the European Conference. The Minister has already set out action undertaken by Ireland in respect of each of these areas.
I. Legal protection against racism and related discrimination at sub- national, national, regional and international levels.
This working group is expected to examine in detail the acceptance of and compliance with obligations under relevant international and European legal instruments (in particular the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and its Article 14). It should identify how other international and European human rights instruments can be used more effectively to combat racial discrimination. How can recent new developments in international law, such as the International Criminal Court, the International Criminal Tribunal and (draft) Protocol No. 12 to the European Convention on Human Rights, best be supported and implemented? How can developments in new technologies be addressed under international law? The working group should propose concrete measures to improve co-operation and co-ordination between relevant international and regional mechanisms. Which implementation mechanisms are needed at national level?
At national level, discussion should cover what legal provisions in constitutional, criminal, civil and administrative law provide adequate protection against discrimination in everyday life (employment, housing, provision of services, etc). Which implementation mechanisms are needed at national level? Should legislation promote positive measures or affirmative action for such persons? What procedures may avoid enactment of restrictive legislation with discriminatory effect? What is the impact and scope of redress of national specialised bodies?
II. Policies and practices to combat racism and related discrimination at sub-national and national level.
This working group is expected to examine what action can be taken to ensure that State and social institutions, such as components of the criminal justice system, schools, housing or welfare agencies, etc, do not discriminate and address cultural and religious diversity. The same consideration should pertain also to non-State institutions, including trade unions and private employers. How can equality of opportunity be promoted in recruitment procedures? What can be done to reflect, proportionately and at various levels, racial and ethnic diversity in public and private institutions at national and local level? What role can mediation mechanisms play? How can greater political participation by members of minority groups be encouraged? What role can political parties play? What special measures may be needed with regard to the situation of women and children and also in respect of Roma/Gypsies and Travellers?
The impact at national level of phenomena of the late 20th century such as increased migration, international mobility and globalisation should also be considered in relation to racism and discrimination and discussion should cover special measures to protect human rights of migrants in this context. Roma/Gypsies continue to suffer from persisting prejudice, discrimination and social exclusion. What measures are necessary to overcome these problems?
The discussion may also incorporate consideration of the role of national specialised bodies in European States.
III. Education and awareness-raising to combat racism, related discrimination and extremism at sub-national, national, regional and international levels.
This Group will focus on the importance of human rights education and promoting a human rights culture - is it given the priority, including in terms of funding that it requires? What is the role of the State and of non-State institutions? What concrete examples may be provided of successful strategies?
Key personnel who are most frequently in contact with members of minority groups require special training programmes. Are codes of conduct or professional ethics useful?
In the school the teaching of history has special importance. What criteria can be established in this respect, to promote better global understanding? What special considerations need to be taken into account for education in a multicultural society? How can out-of-school activities, such as sport, be better used?
The role of NGOs should be considered in this context. How can governments and NGOs best work together?
IV. Information, communication and the media
Information, communication and the media, as well as new technologies, can be used to positive effect. What good practices have been established and how can these be further developed and expanded? What communication strategies have been found to be most successful and why?
"Hate speech" persists, in written and broadcast media and, more recently, disseminated through new technologies. What can be done? The role of media proprietors, editors, writers, programme makers, journalists and advertisers needs to be examined as well as that of politicians. Legal and technical measures for the screening of internet communications will also be discussed.
A contemporary development in certain States is the use of music and concerts by neo- nazi and fascist groups to reach young people. Video games can provide an attractive medium for transmitting racist ideology and symbols to youth. What strategies and action are required to counter these trends?
3. Role of NGOs
An NGO Forum will be held immediately before the European Conference. It will take place, in Strasbourg, on 10 and 11 October. Separately 80 NGOs will contribute actively as full participants to the European Conference 2000.
Objectives of the European NGO Forum Against Racism
Calling for action, by urging improved implementation of international legal instruments and national laws and by proposing a series of key actions, "next steps" or follow up actions to the European and World Conferences at all levels (local, national, regional, and international).
Informing and mobilising, so that all NGOs concur with and take on for themselves the priorities for action, reviewing the national and regional implications of these and using information gained during the NGO Forum to press for further action nationally and regionally.
Sharing and learning, by networking with other projects, building alliances across Europe and contributing generally to NGO empowerment.
Facilitating NGOs in fulfilling their vital roles in awareness-raising, elaboration of policies, monitoring and holding governments accountable and acting as watchdogs over government and intergovernmental institutions.
Focusing on specific issues (e.g. policing), to cover the diverse needs of participating NGOs in small informal meetings.
Aiming at influencing the European Conference ‘All different all equal: from principle to practice’, its agenda and outcome, through broad NGO participation in the preparations as well as a specific NGO input from the Forum to the Conference itself.
Adopting a joint NGO position paper that will be appended to the General Conclusions of the European Conference.
Relating to the World Conference against racism, throughout the process of the regional conference, by bringing forward to the global conference the contributions of European NGOs.
NGOs mobilising to make a difference
In late 1998 NGOs were consulted to identify which issues concerning racism they considered most important in their daily work. The result of this consultation led to the setting up of an NGO Resource Group whose task is to co-ordinate NGO preparations for the European Conference. The following NGOs are members of the Resource Group: European Network against Racism (ENAR), UNITED for Intercultural Action; International Commission of Jurists (ICJ); Northern Ireland Council for Ethnic Minorities; SOS Racismo-Españña; Citizens’ Watch of St. Petersburg; and the European Roma Rights Center (ERRC), Budapest.
The role of the Resource Group is to:
Substance of the NGO Forum
European NGOs are expected to urge the participating states to make the European Conference result in a plan of action which defines the problems and commits the appropriate authorities to adopt mechanisms for resolution and redress, as well as ensure reparation for damages caused by racial discrimination.
Cross-cutting themes need to be raised in each of the working groups, such as the situation of all vulnerable groups in particular women, youth, Roma, Gypsies and Travellers, indigenous people, refugees, asylum seekers, migrants, resident foreign workers, other non-citizens and undocumented persons and persons of immigrant origin and issues such as racist violence and incitement to such, policing and law enforcement. Each working group also considers the issue of NGO networking in relation to the thematic topic.
The four themes to be discussed in working groups during the NGO Forum mirror those of the European Conference, although with the inclusion of aspects which may not be addressed in depth at the conference. A fifth theme has been added, that of Immigration and Asylum.
Immigration and asylum issues will be discussed from the perspective of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. In some European countries, immigration is a long-standing phenomenon. Discussion should focus on discrimination which may be faced by immigrants, for example in employment, access to public services and in relation to the law enforcement system. In other countries, it is a relatively new development and there may be an insufficient legal and structural framework for this, thus damaging prospects for integration and community relations. Asylum may similarly constitute a new issue for some countries.
There is an increasing trend across Europe to tighten-up the criteria for permitting immigration and to promote the harmonisation of asylum policies, despite the projected need of some European states to increase their workforce. Discussion should cover the implications of these developments, examining for example whether this might lead to a deterioration in the situation of immigrants already legally resident in a country or discrimination against them. Steps to facilitate access to citizenship for immigrants with long-term residence in their countries should also be considered. Discussion should also include the possible discriminatory effect of existing restrictive legislation.
Hostility towards immigrants, persons of immigrant origin, non-citizen residents, undocumented or illegal immigrants, asylum seekers and refugees is widely expressed by public opinion. Such hostility is often taken up by certain sections of the media and leading politicians. Discussion should focus on action to counter this situation.
The situation of asylum seekers should also be raised to see how NGOs can work on having the standards of the 1951 Convention applied, without discrimination, to all asylum seekers who fulfil the conditions stated in the Convention.
Participation in the NGO Forum
There are several ways to participate in the NGO Forum:
Be present during the Forum
Some 200-250 local, national and international NGOs will be able to participate in the Forum with one representative for each NGO. The Forum can only accommodate this number of NGOs due to logistical constraints. Financing is also only available for a limited number of NGOs.
This explains why there may need to be a selection of NGOs. The main criteria for this will be: a geographical balance; the field of action; specific interests; that vulnerable groups should be proportionately represented; and the possibility to report back to other NGOs after the Forum.
Join the Internet Conference and chat on the Internet
A "shadow" conference will be held on the Internet prior to and during the European Forum and Conference. This will be a way for NGOs that cannot attend these events to give their opinion on the issues and chat with others. Results of the discussions will be considered during the European NGO Forum. The web address of the Internet Conference is : http://www.icare.to/interconference.html
4. ECRI and EUMC
The European Commission Against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) was established in October 1993 under the aegis of the Council of Europe. It comprises independent members with recognised expertise in dealing with questions of racism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism and intolerance. Its activities are multidisciplinary and based around its terms of reference which allow it examine and assess the effectiveness of the range of measures taken by member states to combat racism and propose further action in this field at local, national and European level; to formulate general policy recommendations to member states; study international legal instruments; collect data and public material. ECRI is co-ordinating the European preparatory conference on racism that will take place in October 2000, and issues periodical updates and reports on countries in the Council, including Ireland and the United Kingdom.
The next ECRI report on Ireland will be compiled in 2001. Contacts with NGOs and with the Government first half of 2001 and a draft report is likely to be prepared by ECRI by mid-year and transmitted to the Government for the correction of factual errors. Text is made public when finally adopted by ECRI. Ireland’s nominee on ECRI is Mr. Seamus Colliemore.
The Council of Europe also works closely with the European Monitoring Centre in Vienna (EUMC). In June 1997 the EU Council adopted the regulation 'establishing a European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia' (EUMC), which has been based in Vienna. The Centre has four main tasks: