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Looking to the EU for direction on anti-discrimination

Representatives from the Norwegian Directorate for Health and Social Affairs spent two days in Brussels researching EU and NGO anti-discrimination strategies. The EU funded the trip as part of a campaign to push for anti-discrimination projects.

15/02/2006 :: “It has been very useful for us to come to Brussels and see up close how anti-discrimination measures have been put into place. It is important to have such an exchange of experience,” said Anne Lieung, the Director for Welfare Policy who led the research group visiting Brussels 10 and 11 March.

EU funding through the Community Action Programme enabled Lieung, along with advisers Grete Hjermstad and Janne Kristin Kjøllesdal, to research EU and NGO anti-discrimination strategies in Brussels.

The representatives looked to the EU and NGO’s within the EU system in search of specific examples of anti-discrimination procedures, in order to gain a broader knowledge of successful EU initiatives and experience in the field.

A final report to the Norwegian Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs will be used in preparation for a Norwegian project on multiple areas of discrimination, such as race, gender, disabilities, age and sexual orientation. Norway is one of many countries that have received EU funds for this purpose.

“Although Norway has a good record when it comes to protection of individual rights and providing technical support to disabled persons, EU initiatives has for example exceeded Norwegian measures on improving accessibility for people with disabilities,” said Lieung.

In the course of two days the representatives met with NGO’s such as the European Older People’s Platform, European Disability Forum, the International Gay and Lesbian Association, and experts from the EU Commission and Norway’s Mission to the EU.

Strategies such as mainstreaming, capacity building and benchmarking have, in close cooperation with NGO’s, proven to be successful anti-discrimination measures for the EU.

“I believe benchmarking is really effective. Countries measure themselves against the accomplishments of others. By coming to Brussels we are able to compare our practices with the practices of other countries, which enables us to see how far we have come in our goals,” Lieung said.

The visiting group further identified the importance of educating individual target groups, as well as NGO’s and employers about anti-discrimination legislation.

“We have gotten some really good ideas for types of awareness raising for campaigns on anti-discrimination, and how important it is that awareness raising is linked up to legislation. It is essential to educate people about their rights,” Lieung added.

A new legislation against discrimination has been proposed and will be processed by the Norwegian Parliament sometime this spring. This is the first Norwegian legislation that addresses a broad spectrum of issues that includes discrimination against race, gender, religion, age and sexual orientation.

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Janne Kristin Kjøllesdal (left), Anne Lieung and Grete Hjermstad researched EU’s anti-discrimination strategies in Brussels Photo: Anne Grethe Nilsen, EU-del.