The right to equality and non-discrimination must become a reality for everyone

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Statement to mark European Diversity Month by Séamus Boland, President of the Civil Society Organisations' Group of the EESC

Diversity in all its shapes is part of our collective richness. We must celebrate it as such. Diversity is based on equality and non-discrimination, two core values and fundamental rights of the European Union. But even if these rights are enshrined in the EU’s Treaties and Charter of Fundamental Rights, they are still far from being automatic. We cannot wait another decade to make these rights a reality for all Europeans. We must be both forceful and consistent in all EU policies, defending our values not only within the EU but also in our relations with third parties, to make sure that everyone can be themselves without risk of discrimination, exclusion or violence. Our unity in diversity contributes to our social, political and economic strength.

I believe that the EU needs an ambitious strategy on communication, education and the public awareness of fundamental rights, the rule of law and democracy. To build a real Union of Equality, the Commission should strengthen the culture of fundamental rights at EU level, especially by carrying out monitoring, to ensure that its legislative proposals and the whole legislative process, as well all the acts it adopts, comply with the Charter and that they are observed in the Member States. Diversity and equal opportunities in the workplace, regardless of age, disability, gender, race or ethnic origin, religion or sexual orientation, for example, must become a reality.

Independent civil society organisations (CSOs) contribute to the promotion of values and rights, they build bridges in our societies, hold decision-makers to account and provide a safety net for individuals and local communities. Structured and regular dialogue and the involvement of CSOs is therefore a basis for a more inclusive and diverse Europe. Public authorities should be systematically encouraged to engage with and involve CSOs. Policy-making needs to be carried out with all groups of society and not for them. CSOs must be supported in their work with sustainable and simplified access to funding.

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Statement by President Séamus BOLAND