The Conference “First Regional forum of Equality bodies of South-East Europe”, was held in Belgrade on November 16th – The International day of tolerance with the support of the OSCE Mission in Serbia and Open Society Fundation.
The Commissioner for Protection of Equality – Brankica Jankovic stated the discrimination is deeply rooted in prejudices and habits that are slowly changing and that Equality bodies in countries of the region are confirming through their daily work that it is possible to live with dignity and full adherence to the principle of equality.
The Commissioner emphasized that the highest number of Citizens complaints are from the area of labor and employment, which is a common frame of reference for the gathering on this Conference.
Jankovic underlined that a significant number of people are living in fear of losing their jobs, with a lack of feeling of freedom and with acceptance of unacceptable working conditions and discriminatory practices on various grounds. She also stated that most people face discrimination in the area of labor on the grounds like age, disability, pregnancy or on the grounds of affiliation to a political or syndical organizations.
Judging by the nature of complaints upon which The Commissioner and most of the similar institutions in the region act, most of them refer to the area of labor and employment, pointed out The Commissioner and added that those institution need to prove that it is possible to live with dignity with full adherence of the principle of equality.
“We have gathered here believing that we can conquer all of those numerous challenges through cooperation and great mutual effort”, stated The Commissioner while signing The Statement on cooperation of regional Equality bodies together with other participants, which envisages constant communication and exchange of experiences.
The participants of the Conference were addressed also by the President of the National Assembly of Serbia, stating that Serbia is dedicated to regional cooperation, peace and security and that the role of The Commissioner is crucial in preventing, banning and combat against all forms of discrimination so the countries could advance in fulfilling international standards.
“The National Assembly of Serbia is satisfied with good cooperation that it has with The Commissioner for Protection of Equality and I am convinced that we will build together a better and more stable region by making each of our societies more tolerant.
In Gojkovic’s opinion,the Chapters 23 and 24 within the negotiations for the accession to the EU will be a good chance to advance the Human Rights and Liberties in Serbia.
The OSCE Head of Mission in Serbia – Andrea Orizio stated that organization of the Conference is a way to offer a platform for regional networking and cooperation by striving to the ideal of equality for all.
“If any group of individuals is discriminated then we are all deprived of our Universal Human Rights”, stated Orizio and pointed out that state institutions can benefit from the support from the Equality bodies and also that journalists play an important role in representing reality by shading the light on issues of public interest.
“The representatives of the media should create an atmosphere of zero tolerance to discrimination, and that is why we supported establishing media awards for tolerance”, stated Orizio, who handed the prizes, together with The Commissioner Jankovic to the winners of the competiton.
The Executive director of EQUINET – Ana Gaspard stressed that this organization promotes equality in Europe and that diversity enriches the society of every country and that diversity is a necessary precondition for peace and equality.
“The importance of communication and work on awareness raising contributes to strengthening of broader social relations, while Equality bodies have a complex role which isn’t always popular”, stated Gaspard, pointing out that political support has a key influence on fulfilling the role of those bodies and that regional cooperation increases their capacities.
The experience from Bosnia was shared by the presiding of Ombudspersons for Human Rights of Bosnia and Hercegovina – Jasminka Dzumhur, who stated that the concept of tolerance demands respect other people’s ideas and positions as well as richness of diversity in societies and that the duty of those who fight discrimination is to promote the fact that every human being is free and has a right to live in peace and be whatever he or she wants to be.
The Commissioner for Gender Equality of Croatia – Visnja Ljubicic announced that, for the purpose of continuing the project started in Belgrade, next year will be organized a meeting in Zagreb, and her colleague – The Commissioner for rights of children – Ivana Milas Klaric pointed out that by doing quality work by her and other institutions for protection of rights of a child, we relieve other institutions of being overburdened.
The gathering was also addressed by the Deputy Commissioner for Protection of Equality of Albania – Ardiana Hala, Deputy ombudsperson of Croatia – Tena Simonovic Einwalter, The Commissioner for Protection of persons with disability of Croatia – Anka Slonjsak, the President of the Commission for Protection of Equality – Aleksandar Dastevski and Deputy Ombudsperson for Human Rights and Liberties of Montenegro – Sinisa Bjekovic.
They all agreed that regional cooperation is necessary for the purpose of protection of Human Rights and combating discrimination in every sphere of life.