It is an uncontested fact that discrimination on the basis of ethnicity or perceived ethnicity pervades every society; in order to counteract this inherently divisive tendency, participants from across Europe have met to identify obstacles and discuss possible solutions to the problems presented.
One of the primary factors of discrimination on the basis of ethnicity is fear of perceived differences; a culturally fed phenomenon in which the media plays a decisive role. This fear, and the reactionary thoughts it provokes, not only permeates the labour market, but also a country’s political and educational systems, as well as the society at large.
The labour market is characterised by an inversely proportional relationship between the level of responsibility that a position holds and the perceived ethnicity of the worker; promotion criteria seemingly abide by unwritten rules of prejudice. The labour market is also characterised by wage imbalances and segregation of market niches, where discrimination creates an abundance of overqualified workers in certain sectors. Migrant workers frequently face abuses of Human Rights with regard to working conditions but are often ill informed of the fundamental civil liberties to which they are entitled.
Within the realm of education we believe that there are insufficient measures to expurgate prejudice and increase mutual understanding. Cultural stereotypes and religious misconceptions perpetuate divisions in society and in many cases language poses a further barrier to social interaction.
Many minorities are politically underrepresented resulting in a lack of public recognition as well as poor implementation of resources to readdress the situation. This often creates a stagnant political system in discord with the actual diversity of a nation.
Although we acknowledge the existence of state structures authorised to promote social inclusion and integration in some of the Council of Europe member states, we have observed an absence of such bodies in other member states.
However, it is important not to solely focus on issues at a national level, as Human Rights transcend borders and are applicable on an international scale. The UN Charter of Human Rights, though universally accepted, does not have a competent legislative and executive framework to ensure its application, as illustrated by the inefficiency of the International Court of Justice in The Hague. Similarly, the corresponding policies on the European level have an ineffective mechanism for dealing with human rights violations. The situation with minority issues is additionally complex as the international rights structure focuses on individual rather than collective rights. We therefore recommend that a consensus is reached between the Council of Europe member states with regard to policies on Human Rights.
To celebrate the diversity of our respective cultures and ethnicities, to acknowledge the beneficial aspects of social cohesion and to ensure that fundamental Human Rights are abided by, we request that the Council of Europe and national governments take measures to rectify these problems. We ask for stricter legislation with regard to labour laws and cooperation between governmental departments and specialised NGOs. We urge governments to provide free and easily accessible language courses for migrants in order to precipitate communication and social inclusion. Education has the power to shape society and change preconceived notions of what constitute identity and belonging, eliminating the fear of what is considered to be different. We therefore strongly recommend the implementation of courses which outline the history of religions alongside courses on citizenship and Human Rights, all of which should be compulsory for school children. We urge NGOs and local governmental bodies to increase youth inclusion in municipality affairs and activities, thus promoting political awareness and inclusion. We consider events and projects that promote intercultural exchange to be efficient tools in the fight against discrimination, and thus recognise the importance of coordinated actions, such as the All Different – All Equal campaign. Moreover, other initiatives established by non-governmental organisations should be encouraged.
Pluralism based on mutual respect generates a strong civil society both at the national and international level and are essential for the development of humankind. The values of tolerance, democracy and diversity prevent homogeneity and are crucial for combating discrimination.