October 1, 2015
A guest blog post, jointly signed by ERGO Network, European Disability Forum, European Youth Forum, IGLYO, ILGA-Europe – the European Region of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transand Intersex Association and Social Platform.
Colloquium. A gathering of experts, brought together to discuss a thorny topic and put forward pragmatic solutions. The word might not be an automatic part of your everyday vocabulary – but it’s about to be, if you champion human rights in Europe.
That’s because today marks the opening of the first Colloquium on Fundamental Rights in Brussels. Hosted by the European Commission, the two-day meeting invites key stakeholders to discuss how to combat growing anti-Semitic and islamophobic hatred across the continent.
The disturbing increase in hate incidents in recent years demands a response. This colloquium will allow civil society, religious and faith community leaders, representatives of EU institutions and EU member states to explore ways to improve the daily lives of Jews and Muslims in Europe. It offers a timely opportunity to shift the focus back to respecting the fundamental rights enshrined in the EU treaties, not just outside the European Union but also within its borders.
Civil society organisations wholeheartedly welcome this initiative. We are excited by its potential to kick-start wide-ranging discussions as our struggles are all connected. The Colloquium is understandably zooming in on islamophobia and anti-Semitism. We should however not forget to look at the broader picture as well.
Fundamental rights issues are interrelated. If anti-Semitism or islamophobic hatred is present in a certain place, then that society is more likely to tolerate hate against other minority groups, such as ethnic and religious minorities, people with disabilities or LGBTI people. Recent EU surveys, like the FRA’s 2012 report, confirm this. Discrimination against one group frequently overlaps with discrimination of others. Even within minority communities, discrimination needs to be addressed, be it of LGBTI people in religious communities or people of faith in the LGBTI community.
This is why the equality work driven by anti-racism groups can complement similar projects being carried out by disability rights organisations. Cooperation between youth NGOs and LGBTI associations is the key to addressing discrimination within their own constituencies. This is why civil society groups work together in broad alliances in addressing hatred and discrimination.
For example, just today, the Global Interfaith and Secular Alliance (GISA), together with Catholics for Choice and ILGA-Europe, is organising a conference on religion, human rights and the secular Europe, looking at how the freedom of religion and belief can go hand in hand with other human rights, such as the rights of LGBTI people as well as sexual and reproductive rights.
Fighting stereotypes and promoting human rights is in everyone’s interest.
In this respect, the role of education on human rights is particularly important; a sentiment shared by the Colloquium on Fundamental Rights as it has dedicated a session to the role of education in fostering diversity. Equality NGOs recognise the potential of education to act as a catalyst, increasing respect for difference and diversity from an early age. The EU must therefore deliver on the commitments made by education ministers in March 2015 through the Paris Declaration on Promoting citizenship and the common values of freedom, tolerance and non-discrimination through education.
The follow-up to this colloquium will need to deal with the real needs of Jews and Muslims in Europe while working towards a more coherent framework for the protection and promotion of human rights within the EU. Civil society is standing ready to contribute with experiences, strategies and networks across Europe. For the event to be a continual success and not a missed opportunity, we believe that the first colloquium should signal the start of a wider review of the situation of fundamental rights in the EU. It is time for real partnership against hatred in Europe.